Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Round up the usual suspects

The usual blogs on left and right are rushing to blame the media for rushing their reporting on last night's developments in the mine disaster. The typical complaint is that they should not have reported that the families believed that the miners had survived until they had gotten independent confirmation.

Other than turning the cameras off completely, it's not clear to me what they could have done. If there's any point to 24-hour news at all, it's to have cameras wherever news is breaking. If the cameras see/hear bells ringing, hugging, happy people and general scenes of jubilation, are they supposed to not record it? or record and not transmit it? People were running up to reporters telling them that mine officials had told them that 12 miners were found alive. The CNN reporters at least (I can't watch Fox; it makes me nauseous) repeatedly said they were awaiting official confirmation of this.

The first reports of survivors turned out to be untrue, but to say that they never should have aired it until they'd received official confirmation from mine officials is like saying they should only print/air news from the war that had been confirmed by the Pentagon; should only print/air White House news confirmed by Scott McClelland. Should report, in fact, that Michael Brown was doing a heck of a job.

The weirdest part of the story was that the company knew twenty minutes after initial reports that they were not true, and didn't contradict the errors, because they didn't know exactly who was dead and alive. How hard would it have been to stick someone in front of cameras to say, "We believe there are more casualties than originally reported", without getting into details?

If anything, this story showed the danger of sequestering the media away from the story. People from the community were seeking out reporters to tell them, in so many words, 'the world needs to know that they (the company) are lying to us'. First word that the original reports of twelve survivors was wrong came from a member of the community walking up to Anderson Cooper and telling him what was going on in the church. I guess the purists should have had him shut off the camera and tell her he couldn't take her report, because it was 'unconfirmed'...


At 9:42 PM, Anonymous Ace said...

There is only one thing fundamentally wrong with the media coverage of the mine disaster.

They got it totally WRONG in the first set of reports.

And what has to happen now is for the people who got it WRONG to admit that they screwed up and got it WRONG.

After all, that's what they beat up on politicos - at all stops along the political spectrum - for failing to do. It was a monumental screw-up that caused a heap of grief for a bunch of families. That may not be as awful as some of the things that politicos have done, but the media folks need to suck down some humble pie on this one.

At 8:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

forgot my password again... this is diamondlil... I agree Ace... For Gosh SAKE!!! Mistakes happen!!! Admit that YOU TOO are human Members of the of Media!!! (picture DL jumping up and down and frothing at the mouth, turning purple and whatnot with each of the multitude of exclamation points.) I can understand the media jumping the gun, it WAS news and much hoped for (as opposed to the alternative). No one really wants to report tragedy (okay some do, but they are not my favority people) but a Miracle? You Bet! Especially in today's environment, happy news, wonderful news, uplifting news in the face of disaster and heartbreak is overwhelming welcome, and I suspect that members of the media that day were swept up in the euphoria, rather than sticking to their working criteria and training. Doesn't excuse them, but it gives it a logical (albeit emotional) reason, and doesn't really smack of a conspiracy. The mine operator's truly should have had the courage to come forward as soon as they knew the outcome was far different, but I suspect that they too were intimidated in the face of that euphoria and wanted to be abosolutely positive before bringing out the horrible news (but I certainly don't think it should have taken almost 2.5 hours to gather up that courage. The outcome on the families was FAR more devastating than a more rapid destruction of their hopes and jubiliation.)


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