Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Another news failure

The miners trapped in a West Virginia coal mine have been found. All but one of them is dead. Our hearts and prayers go out to the survivor and the families of the dead. As the causes of the disaster are investigated lessons will be learned which will help prevent another disaster like this from happening. Whether the explosion was caused by a failure of the mine operators to follow every safety regulation or a failure of the regulations to take into account every possible hazard will become clear and the necessary actions will be taken.

Let us take this opportunity to examine another failure brought to light by this incident. The failure of the news media. When the mistaken report that all the miners had been found alive was communicated to the families the media, rather than getting confirmation, instantly splashed it all over the television screens of the nation. Just in the case of hurricane Katrina where media reports of cannibalism and widespread murder and rape in the Superdome proved to be untrue the urge to get something "big" on the air ASAP trumped common sense. The false report of surviving miners and the fantasy reports of the horrors of the Superdome ultimately harm nothing other than the media's already low credibility. However the false reports from New Orleans that the rescue helicopters were being fired upon caused them to be grounded for a time and probably did cost lives.

A big name in the MSM called the reporting on Katrina "the media's finest hour". As it turned out just about everything that was said by the media beyond "there is a hurricane, it is called Katrina, New Orleans is flooding" was false. Is it possible that no matter how many times these people are made to look like fools that they will still refuse to learn from their mistakes?