Northern Valley Beacon

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Press Review: the press's role in the Sago Mine failure

We started to do a piece on the press's role in the Sago Mine disaster, but this piece in the CJR Daily says it all:

How the press got the Sago Mine story wrong

by Gal Beckerman

"Maybe the reporters on the ground in West Virginia were just plain tired. Or maybe they themselves were swept up in the euphoria and wanted to believe. Otherwise, it's hard to explain how the erroneous news of the survival and rescue of 12 of the 13 miners caught underneath the ground in Sago, West Virginia made it to the front pages of our nation's papers this morning.

"A close reading of the articles themselves tells the tale of how journalists bungled the story: In most, there are no sources at all for the information; in some, the sources are the rumors spread by frantic family members. Those sorts of sources are hardly a solid basis for headlines screaming, "They're Alive!"

"Take a look at how the venerable Washington Post began its story: "A dozen miners trapped 12,000 feet into a mountainside since early Monday were found alive Tuesday night just hours after rescuers found the body of a 13th man, who died in an explosion in an adjacent coal mine that was sealed off in early December."

"The article continues in full speculation mode, adding in the fourth paragraph that "the miners had apparently done what they had been taught to do: barricaded themselves in a pocket with breathable air and awaited rescue."

"All untrue -- but written with stunning confidence. Nowhere in this Post piece is there any mention of sources. It doesn't even refer to the one official, Joe Thornton, deputy secretary for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, who was widely quoted and whom the New York Times at least referred to in its lead: "Forty-one hours after an explosion trapped 13 men in a West Virginia coal mine here, family members and a state official said 12 of the miners had been found alive Tuesday night." "

Click the link for the entire piece.

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