"Some Say Media Erred in Mine Coverage" - there's an ironic headline. Or is it just post-modern? When the media starts covering itself, what is it, exactly?
In the case of the mine disaster in West Virginia, it's tragic and pathetic. In a world of twenty-four hour satellite instant news around the clock from across the globe and into your living room, how could they have been so wrong? There weren't twelve miners found alive. They had it exactly backwards. There were twelve miners who died. Newspapers were printed bearing the headlines "12 Alive." "MIRACLE IN THE MINE." "They're Alive!" Whoops. This one isn't exactly on a par with "Dewey Defeats Truman," since Dewey got to walk away from that one. Additionally, everyone's favorite journalist/pinhead, Geraldo Rivera was swept up in the drama as if he had at last opened a vault with something in it. Whoops - twelve dead miners - sorry!
The Boston Globe played it safe. They ran a headline that said "Twelve Miners Reportedly Found Alive." Three hours later when they ran a final edition, "Jubilation, Then Horror" — a version that reached 145,000 of the paper's 400,000-plus readers. That "Reportedly" gave some wiggle room for the Globe. Not everyone else showed that kind of restraint.
Maybe the problem is that all this non-stop fast-food news causes information to come out half-baked. Deadlines are right now. Who wants to wait and confirm stories when you've got one chance to beat CNN to the punch?
Melanie Sill, executive editor of The News & Observer of Raleigh, N.C., wrote an "editor's blog" to readers Wednesday explaining her paper's coverage. Her message, she said, was that "there's a difference between journalistic failure and getting bad information — which I call an honest mistake." That wasn't the sound coming from CNN. Jonathan Klein, the network's president, said "Unlike print, which has to live with its mistakes etched in stone, TV is able to correct itself immediately. I think the audience accepts that."
Thanks Jonathan. And now back to your regularly scheduled journalistic vortex.