04 January 2006

Do You Believe in Miracles?

We did, for a few hours. At 8ish west coast time we saw this: See It Now, an AP article claiming that the miners had been found alive. We were a little suspicious that the only source was family members, and not the mining company, but like good Americans we were able to largely ignore those suspicions and be happy for the rejoicing families. 'Miracle' for once did not seem a semantic stretch.

Only to come back to the computer a few hours later and see this: See It Now. An AP article with the lede, "Jubilant family members celebrated news early Wednesday that 12 miners were pulled alive from the scene of an underground explosion, only to learn nearly three hours later that they had been misled and just one miner actually survived." (Italics ours.)

At exactly 1:24am west coast time, Huffington Post actually has links to both articles up. A devastating day for those involved, and not exactly a banner day for journalism. (The journalistic angle being the only reason we discuss it in these pages. Standing Eight would prefer to let all bereaved persons, in all cases, grieve in private.)

This is one of the times when the overused word tragedy is called for, not only because of the deaths (which would be enough,) but the family's day of being jerked around is (to we outside observers,) equally heartbreaking.

It's already been widely reported that this mine had a couple hundred safety complaints in 2005.

We can say nothing to console those dealing with this loss, and don't expect them to wander by The Eight, but for persons who do, and since media criticism is our stock in trade and the media are complicit in today's awfulness, here are two sentences pulled from the later story and one comment-question about each sentence:

1) (After the families were told the truth:) "At that point, chaos broke out in the church and a fight started." Comment: Who was fighting, AP? Family against family? Family against mine representative? Reporter against greedy reporter?

2) (This quote referring to the earlier moments after the families had been told they were alive:) "A few minutes after word came, the throng, several hundred strong, broke into a chorus of the hymn "How Great Thou Art," in a chilly, night air." Comment: Is he still great?

---LATE UPDATE--- This is clearly going to prove to be the big story of the day, probably the next few days and into next week. All the big papers print editions got caught and went with "Miners Found Alive" on their front pages (NY Times, NY Post, Newsday...) which they'll have to retract and cover tomorrow, Thursday. plus Imus won't shut up about it, and Imus is the starting gun for the daily news cycle echo-chamber.---

1 comment:

Daniel Mullin said...

In surfing the Internet late in the evening on the 3rd I ran across a headline that claimed people were found alive or something of the sort. I flipped to the nearest 24 hour news station. On CNN I found a reporter speaking into the camera with two ambulances driving past him. He proclaimed something like "These look like an ambulances and the drivers inside appear to smiling." It was to be understood that the EMTs were happy because the miners were inside

So as it turns out, this reporter was full of shit. I knew this immediately...without knowing just how full of shit he was until this morning when I awoke to find that in fact most of the miners were dead.

As a medium, the Internet got this story wrong. As a medium, 24 hour news got this story wronger. Tragically wronger. This reporter was forced to narrate. His narration, or at least the moment of it I could tolerate, had all the sophistication of an infant's babblings. "Happy ambulance!"

This reporter was no doubt a victim of the complete lack of facts or compelling visual images present at this scene. In their absence, and in the presence of a camera he misinterpreted the facts and the images for the viewer.