West Virginia: Worst Reporting Ever

Okay, heard about the miners trapped in West Virginia? They were presumed dead due to the toxic levels of carbon monoxide found from sensors put down into the mine.

Then, around 9 or 10PM PST, CNN reported that 12 of 13 trapped were miraculously alive! Wow! Fuck! Good news for the new year.

Oops. As wonderful as it is that Randall McCloy survived, he is the only one. The others were all found dead. This news just broke around 11:45Pm PST. By then, all the miners’ families were told 12 of 13. They all got dressed and hauled ass down to the site to see their loved ones alive again, only to be told they were actually dead. The remote cameras found the one miner who died in the actual blast, and the others huddled together, victims of the CO gas. Somebody like confused “1 alive, 12 dead” with “12 alive, one dead.” It happens. Ben Hatfield, President of the International Coal Group, says it was a result of a “miscommunication” between an onsite investigator to the command center, who then told the families. Hatfield claims he has no idea how that information got out, who said it, and denies it was ever an official statement. Oh wait, he just clarified that the person who said it (with heavy implication that he knows who it was) “was wrong,” and he himself told the families. Okay, Ben. He also just reminded the reporters that, you know, one guy made it! which brings me to my next point:

As a kicker, this mine evidently has had over three hundred safety citations over 2005, with 46 in the week or two leading up to this disaster, most regarding unsafe levels of CO. Carbon Monoxide is an irreversible competitor for oxygen binding sites on blood hemoglobin. It’s colorless, odorless, its effects are insidious, (mild sleepiness prgressing rapidly to dizziness, unconsciousness, and death), and it’s essentially as dangerous a gas as there is thaty occurs in nature. So, great! Good to know working in an obviously dangerous occupation is well-policed and safety is maintained.

This blows. This blows so much it made me post about it in P&R.

Damn. I can’t imagine the feeling of hearing that a loved one was alive only to be told that it was a mistake and they were dead. “Oops, sorry” doesn’t cut it.

We read in the paper and the radio tells
Us to to raise our children to be miners as well.
Oh tell them how safe the mines are today
And to be like your daddy, bring home a big pay.

    Now don't you believe them, my boy,
    That story's a lie.
    Remember the disaster at the Mannington mine
    Where seventy-eight miners were burned alive,
    Because of unsafe conditions your daddy died.

They lure you with money, it sure is a sight.
When you may never live to see the daylight
With your name among the big headlines
Like that awful disaster at the Mannington mine.

    So don't you believe them, my boy,
    That story's a lie.
    Remember the disaster at the Mannington mine
    Where seventy-eight good men so uselessly died,
    Oh, don't follow your daddy to the Mannington mine.

There's a man in a big house way up on the hill
Far, far from the shacks where the poor miners live.
He's got plenty of money, Lord, everything's fine
And he has forgotten the Mannington mine.
Yes, he has forgotten the Mannington mine.

There is a grave way down in the Mannington mine
There is a grave way down in the Mannington mine.
Oh, what were their last thoughts, what were their cries
As the flames overtook them in the Mannington mine.

    So don't you believe them, my boy,
    That story's a lie.
    Remember the disaster at the Mannington mine
    Where seventy-eight miners were buried alive,
    Because of unsafe conditions your daddy died.

How can God forgive you, you do know what you've done.
You've killed my husband, now you want my son.

The Mannington Mine Disaster, Hazel Dickens, 1972

Hey, only 12. Progress!

Apparently a fight broke out when the actual news was delivered that the miners were, in fact, dead.

Hardly surprising. Although I can’t imagine it being characterized as a “fight” so much as “a bunch of enraged grieving families kicking the shit out of some bearer of bad tidings”.

However, I don’t think we can blame the media, as Bill seems inclined to do with his subject header (“Worst! Reporting! EVAR!”). The news outlets were simply repeating what they were told from official sources.


It is currently 5:34 am (I fell asleep during the writing of this post) and the well organized thoughts that have been in my head for hours have fallen apart like a Jenga tower thats missing that one crucial block. There will be a lot of dramatic interpretations of the events that lead to the incorrect claim that 12 miners survived in the coming days. I think this board of fairly intelligent individuals should critically examine the moments before the false news was reported, and turned the local tragedy into a national embarassment.

Fifteen minutes before the families made their announcement the mining company released an update stating that they had found one body and had located a mining vehicle which indicated that 12 miners had survived the initial blast. Mere minutes after that story had been added to cnn.com, another story surfaced. The families reported the miners were safe! CNN couldn’t tell the reader HOW the families knew, nor could it actually CONFIRM that the miners were safe, but they ran the story anyway. In fact, the story ran unconfirmed for close to three hours. It is extremely important, nay, vital to understand that no official source was behind the false report. The news media has been particularly shameful in regards to this event, and I am damn embarassed to be a Journalism major.

Now I’m certainly not helping matters by adding speculation to this event, but my first impression when I heard the families’ announcement was that they had misinterpreted the last update from the company.

Exactly who is to blame for telling the families that their loved ones were alive is a toss up. I have heard family members blame Governor Manchin, CEO Ben Hatfield, and nameless rescue workers. Regardless, the true culprit is good old American hysterics

I read the headlines in my morning paper exclaiming they were alive. My reaction was, “Wow!”. I then read the actual accompanying article and got a different reaction. The clearest information was that they found one dead, and didn’t have a status on the other remaining miners. The reports of “alive” were relatives who heard it from somebody else.

I assumed that there was soem rather shoddy editting going on because of the rush to go to print and they had just left out parts of the article that supported the headline.

It’s sad that the miners died, and even worse that the relatives had their hopes raised up so high.

One thing I noticed after the Miami seaplane crash last month was the wildly varying “confirmed” reports. I was flipping between CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, and while one outlet was running “18 confirmed dead” another was reporting “6-8 confirmed alive.” It seems that journalism is more and more taking a back seat to beating the other guys to the story. Unfortuantely, in situations like this, it costs them the only capital they really have, the trust of the viewers.

Waking up today, you see the most glass half empty headlines evah.

Poor guy, for not dying, he is going to have to move out of town.


A true Dewey defeats Truman moment for most the AM newspapers…!!

Yeah, I watched it unfold on CNN (with the handy PIP on my 2005FPW!) in real-time.

But they weren’t official.

Your move, Mr. Chick. Your move.

I live about 20 minutes from the mine, but luckily no one I knew was a part of it. Still it’s definately a tradegy for the community.

at least most news outlets got that WV is a seperate state from VA. That doesn’t always happen and its really annoying.

Living in Los Angeles and being from WV is hilarious at times because no one knows it is a state.

“Why do you always specifiy Western Viriginia?”

“Are you fucknig kidding?”

x 7 years.

State troopers and an armed Swat team were posted… in case relatives’ anger spilled over into violence.

Nice, huh?

Not really, surely this situation called for allowing the angry mob to lynch the mine’s CEO.

You mean the newsmedia is starting to run with unconfirmed stories that aren’t true? What is this world COMING too???

I am sure there will be yet another media symposeum on how the media doesn’t veryify its facts. They will agree they need to do a better job, and that will be the end of that.

The best part about all this is that CNN is acting like it is breaking news that coal mining is dangerous as hell.

Me and a co-worker were talking about this yesterday. We both did a tour of duty in news, and we both were working the night Princess Di died. I was at a station where we did the following- reader at the top- Di was in an accident, and then held our finger on the button until we saw pics of a body, or Di walking around , or at least a reporter on the scene seeing it with thier own eyes. At about 10:55 we had some video of the car,but no official confermation- so we just again reported there had been an accident.
My buddies station ended thier newscast with Di had a broken arm. At 1am an offical confermed her death. Oooops.
The disturbing trend of leap before you look- to be the first-which used to be for ratings-or some fucked up notion of noteriety for the reporter- in the past 10 years has spun out of control.Partly because news is almost instant these days-so the bad gets reported. Partly becasue TV ‘journalists’ are just not. They are actors, personalities and yes a few do get it. I remember my first TV boss saying- we are the headlines- if you want the news read the paper. That was 15 years ago. Sadly the stories that TV does best is the emotional drama- miners trapped! Woman missing in Aruba! O.J, Princess Di. Unfortunately they totally suck at the stories that will have a real impact in the world around us, and maybe personally on the viewers-Fla election,Abermoff,wire tap are 3 that come to mind. Those are difficult- but not impossible stories for TV.
My TV fix:
Get rid of the 1:30 story- let the story dictate the duration.
Remove the reporter from the story- Sat and microwave gave TV the ability to be faster and to be everywhere- but now it is used not out of need but , well, becasue we have it- so lets look at that reporter standing in the cold outside the closed courthouse-Whaaaaa? Take that 30 seconds and add it to the story. Fuck thier face time.
No more Press Release stories- the powers that be- local, federal, police fire special interest groups- all know that you send a PR to a station they will come and make it news. I’ve done it myself as a joke one slow summer day- sent a letter to the Worcestershire company and asked them if it was true that they were moving thier factory to Worcester Ma. (where my station was). got a Fax back- did a sat interview with thier PR guy and somehow the story went national. Simple and easy to manipulate the media- Sometimes jokes get out of hand, but it did prove my point at the time that we can and are being controlled if we just follow the Fax machine.

When it was on the news that they were alive, I couldn’t believe it. I said to my wife, “What next, gills?”

The sad thing is that these same networks and non-journalist reporters have so much power to create or dismiss issues from the public mind. Blond attractive gal on a party trip to Aruba goes missing? Top story every morning and evening, interviews on talk shows, etc. Black unattractive guy were to go missing on teh same trip we’d never know it. Untold numbers of people, hundreds of thousands or millions, massacred in areas of Africa? Not a story, no one in America knows or cares much, no celebrity tributes or high visibility trips. Bosnia? OK, those people look a lot more like us or there’s some other angle that makes them decide to make that a regular front page/lead story. Indian caste system that allows members of the lower caste to be lynched in public with huge crowds cheering? Ah, that’s not news. Not nearly as good play as a guy dissapearing off a cruise ship - now THAT’S something where you can have lots of great follow-ups, good visuals, etc.