Newspaper fined for reporter’s fall?!

Let me get this straight.

According to a Buffalo News story by Michael Beebe, inspectors at the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration want to fine the News $31,500 for allowing its sports reporter to go to an unsafe press box while covering a game.

What?!

Sports reporter Tom Borrelli died last year from injuries he sustained when he fell while climbing stairs to a press box at Buffalo’s All High Stadium. The Buffalo school district has since been cited by New York state investigators for five safety violations involving those stairs.

But an OSHA inspector tells Beebe in the story that because the News did not “prevent” its reporters from using the press box it should be fined.

Under this rationale, does it not seem logical that the government should/would fine media outlets for not “preventing” their reporters from reporting in unsafe conditions like — oh, I don’t know — WARS?

Areas where there are a lot of crimes?

Fire and crime scenes?

The list could go on and on. And this case could set a chilling precedent for news organizations. Do they decide to risk potential fines or do they decide to not cover a story because in these tight economic times they cannot afford the risk of OSHA fines?

It is not the fault of the press that reporters sometimes do their jobs in unsafe conditions. The responsibility lies elsewhere. Perhaps the government should focus on the cause of the problem instead of the press.

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