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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Media blew it in West Virginia

I don't really feel like posting much on the subject but...

This was just about the most unprofessional behavior I've ever heard come out of the American news media.

I didn't know anything about it until this morning, when the dominating story was the anger at "the miscommunication" regarding the West Virginia coal mine accident. And I heard some pretty outrageous things about how the major news networks handled the announcement that twelve men had survived, before news came three hours later that in fact only one made it and a dozen had died.

They should have waited for official confirmation - either from company honchos or leaders of the rescue effort - before making so bold a pronouncement. And then they should have kept their cool and acted with solemn dignity... even if it had turned out that the twelve had made it through okay. Instead it sounds more like the media made a story of how the media was covering a story that later turned out to be false.

I'm not casting complete blame on the news media about this thing. Bad things happen, mistakes are made, there is some confusion... and that has to be expected from any disaster. But the press certainly did no one any favors by disregarding journalistic integrity for sake of a triumphant headline and higher ratings.

Let's hope next time that reporters from the major news outlets will remember to thoroughly source and verify their information before passing it along to others.