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Regular Life

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on. – Robert Frost

Media Screws Up Sago Mine Disaster

When CNN’s Anderson Cooper allowed that first bleary-eyed man to tell the whole world that 12 of the Sago coal miners had survived, he crossed the line. It did little good to ask how he was sure that was right. It’s sensationalism, and it’s wrong. I only hope that most newspapers held up going to press long enough to get the right story.

In a mad rush to get the information out first, media outlets sometimes forget to get it right. Tuesday’s Sago coal mine story was a tragically painful reminder of that.

Reporting the news. Typing it out, broadcasting it over the airwaves. That’s the easy part. The gathering is the hard part. I know because I’ve been a reporter. The best writing and presentation skills are useless without research.

Cooper showed us a slideshow of joyful townspeople gathered near the rescue site. As the photos came on the screen one after the other, Cooper said for the viewer to imagine churchbells ringing, as they had been when the waiting crowd was told there were survivors. There were family and friends, first huddled together in anticipation, and then smiling in relief. They hugged, kissed, and used their mobile phones to spread the good word.

Along with those directly affected by this event, millions of viewers and I went to bed believing that all but one of the miners had been found alive.

When I turned on the radio this morning, I thought I heard something about 12 people dead, and at first I was sure it was just a coincidence in numbers. The announcers moved to other news, and not until after my shower did I hear the mining disaster mentioned again. There were 12 dead, and they were the miners reported alive only hours before.

I immediately thought of those who had lived in fear since Monday, only to have hope given and again ripped away. Their streaming tears of joy turned to rivulets of sorrow.

I know that not every detail of every story can be witnessed by reporters, so to an extent they must rely on the word of others. Putting the average Joe on camera before interviewing him and verifying the information, however, is inexcusable. From now on, I’ll only rely on CNN and other news channels for the latest live, late-breaking footage of a corporate jet approaching the runway with faulty landing gear. Because that is certainly worth my time.

More on Sago coal mine here:

5 Responses to Media Screws Up Sago Mine Disaster

  1. Well, the newspapers didn’t hold up and many printed erroneous headlines. There are so many people to blame for the second tragedy of misinformation and yet none to blame. No one intended to deceive or trick these family members. While I agree that the media shares in the liablity of this horrendous turn of events, the outcome remains the same: 12 men lost their lives and each of them and their families desperately need our prayers, as does the sole survivor and his family. I will leave it to others to invariably place blame and liability for all the injustices that occurred in that West Virginia town.

  2. I believe that CNN did not mean to deceive or trick anybody. I am not blaming them for the misinformation — just for running with it so haphazardly. According to the story I linked in my post, we do know that only about 20 minutes after the wrong information had been spread, the truth was known but withheld — for at least three hours. It was not shared with family, friends, or the media. Why? Because officials “wanted to have all the information right first.” Hmm, couldn’t CNN and other news organizations have followed this same thinking?

  3. I could have written this same post…. how awful that people didn’t get the news RIGHT…

  4. I deleted a comment because it linked to a post that was meant to be funny, but that was insensitive. I don’t like to make light of death at all in a situation like this, so that comment has no place here. I also felt that, since it was so out of context and against the grain of my post, instead of a useful comment, it was an attempt to promote that person’s own blog. Thanks for reading, though.

  5. I wasn’t insinuating that you were blaming CNN……totally the contrary actually. I agreed with what you said. Poor judgements were made based flimsy information. No malicious intent on anyone’s part but there are certainly people responsible for what happened.


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