The news item about Steven Slater, Jet Blue’s rogue flight attendant who cussed out a defiant passenger, activated the emergency chute, grabbed a beer or two, and slid out of the plane at JFK Airport, was available online on Monday night at the NYT website:
Included in the article was information about Slater’s recent history of parentcare: “Neighbors in California, where Mr. Slater grew up, said he had recently been caring for his dying mother, a retired flight attendant, and had done the same for his father, a pilot.”
You think maybe the man was feeling overwhelmed?
Yet the two accounts of the story that I watched this morning on TV–both on NBC–didn’t seem to think the parentcare element was worth mentioning. Apparently it was a lot more fun to act incredulous. On the Today Show, a couple of minutes past 7 A.M., Matt Lauer interviewed a Jet Blue passenger and seemed mildly amused at Slater’s rashness; two hours later, Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford grinned while they chatted about whether Slater deserved the heroic status accorded him by a surprising number of viewers.
Yes, the story is interesting. Yes, many of us can sympathize with Slater’s frustration at having to deal with a stubborn, uncooperative passenger. But it’s silly to make him a hero. The poor guy will deservedly lose his job for acting so unprofessionally and irresponsibly.
On the other hand, it’s silly, unprofessional, and irresponsible of NBC (and, I’m betting, many of the other “news” outlets) to tell the story without including the blatantly extenuating circumstance of Slater’s ailing mother and recently deceased father.