January 04, 2006

MSM Misreports News Of Dead Coal Miners

Early in the morning, a mistaken report spread like wildfire that twelve coal miners trapped in West Virginia were miraculously alive depite a previous report that the air quality found at their level contained three times the lethal level of carbon monoxide.

The NY Times ran with the story. So did the Washington Post. The folks at CNN fell all over themselves trying to find euphoric family members to interview.

The one thing they didn't do was verify the story. As a result, the reports in the media reinforced the erroneous report and gave it legitimacy in the minds of the people holding vigils for the lost miners. It gave them false hope because the families of these men believed that the MSM wouldn't be reporting something that they didn't confirm was true.

Now, despite printed headlines to the contrary in the Times, the Post and even the more electronically up-to-the-minute USAToday at news stands all over the country, the real story has come out - that tragically the men did not survive.

The MSM is circling the wagons and trying to dodge their own irresponsibility. Trying to deflect attention from their reporting, they are focusing on the amount of time it took the management of the coal company to squash these middle-of-the-night rumors. The questions certainly need to be asked. But the initial report was just that - a rumor. If the communications people for the coal company knew soon after the initial reports that the men were NOT alive, why didn't the reporters bother to confirm - or for that matter even qualify the reports as unconfirmed?

They didn't have the time, lest they be "scooped" by their competitors. And not one single apology has come from any of these "papers of record". Here's a clue, guys: Do Your Homework! Responsible journalists are supposed to take the time to find the truth before they report the information.

But then, why should they start now?

UPDATE: Despite CNN's carefully constructed timeline, the NY Post is now reporting that the amount of time it took to inform the families of the tragic news was not nearly as long (although the Post doesn't escape blame for its own bogus headline):

At first, relatives yelled, "They're alive!" after hearing the news just before midnight and ran to the local church to pray.

But less than an hour later, those celebrations turned to tears and bitterness as a mine official informed them that there had been a breakdown in communication — and that the men were, in fact, dead.

Looks like CNN picked the wrong families to interview.

UPDATE II: Just so no one gets the impression that I'm "picking" on poor old CNN, I'd like to point out the recklessness of all three major cable news outlets. As reported by Sisu:

"[Anderson] Cooper and his counterparts on MSNBC -- the overripe Rita Cosby -- and Fox News -- some wet-behind-the-ears Anderson Cooper wannabe -- opted for the "blame game."
UPDATE III:
Editor and Publisher calls this incident "one of the most disturbing and disgraceful media performances of this type in recent years".

Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine.com:

One terrible lesson of the West Virginia mine tragedy is that you canÂ’t trust the news. You never could; it has always taken time to see whether stories pan out, to get all the facts, to find out the truth. But now, in our age of instant news and ubiquitous communication, the public sees this process as it occurs. ItÂ’s not the news thatÂ’s live; itÂ’s the process of figuring out what to believe thatÂ’s live. Now, indeed, everyone is a reporter and an editor and the public is learning, as reporters learned, that they need to find their ways through the fog of news. The next time I hear someone being haughty about professional news vs. citizenÂ’s news, IÂ’ll remind them of the West Virginia tragedy, where news traveled ahead of the facts, where everyone was horribly wrong.
Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin

Anyone remember a popular bumper sticker in the 1970's that said simply "Question Authority"? I think we need an updated version that says "Question The MSM".

Posted by: Gary at 09:24 AM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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1 I think you are right...the fear of being "scooped" outweighs the need for checking and re-checking. Mistakes happen, true. But, it seems that lately big ones have been happening, with bigger consequences than simply egg on the face of the media. The reports of "baby raping" and hyped-up casualty numbers during Katrina come to mind. Yet they feel that their coverage is not to be questioned?

Posted by: Pam at January 04, 2006 11:18 AM (rx9LD)

2 I was riveted to my radio lastnight unable to sleep because of this story and it's tragic metamorphasis... screw you MSM!

Posted by: Peakah at January 04, 2006 11:25 AM (LxGm9)

3 Excellent points, Pam!

Posted by: Georgia Girl at January 04, 2006 01:58 PM (EHefn)

4 Despite the left-slant of my local paper, they did quantify the headline, "12 miners found alive, say relatives"

Posted by: Anna at January 04, 2006 11:02 PM (HdrzD)

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