'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

When Media Circuses Go Bad 

E&P offers a thorough summary of the extent of the biggest corporate media screw-up I've ever seen in my life, the coverage of last night's Sago Mine tragedy:

In one of the most disturbing and disgraceful media performances of this type in recent years, television and newspapers carried the tragically wrong news late Tuesday and early Wednesday that 12 of 13 trapped coal miners in West Virginia had been found alive and safe. Hours later they had to reverse course, often blaming the mix-up on "miscommunication."

For hours, starting just before midnight, newspaper reporters and anchors such as Rita Crosby interviewed euphoric loved ones and helped spread the news about the miracle rescue. Newspaper Web sites announced the happy news and many put it into print for Wednesday right at late deadlines. [ ... ]

Anderson Cooper, the CNN host, ripped the coal company at 3 a.m. for not correcting the wrong reports for so long, but did not explain why CNN went with the good news without strong confirmation. [ ... ]

It took three hours for the coal company to correct the reports. It is unclear why the media carried the news without proper sourcing. Some reports claim the early reports spread via cell phones and when loved ones started celebrating most in the media simply joined in.

Truly the only bit of recent media coverage that came close to last night's performance was the extent to which rumors were reported as fact just after 911, but in that situation it was a little bit more understandable. If CNN et al. have any conscience whatsoever, any sense of shame, perhaps they should consider running a few substantial stories about the culpability of the mine's union-busting safety-code-violating owner, ICG, rather than a thousand pandering pieces about the "miracle man" ... .

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