Wednesday, January 04, 2006

When news breaks, We FIX It!

There are some very valid reasons I have had absolutely no friends in the media until just very recently, and that one friend I have, I can say is my friend because she has the qualities that all of her colleagues in the business should aspire to have... Things like integrity, morals, ethics and honesty, and the ability to get a story right before running off and publishing or reporting it.
Some mistakes will be made, that happens because no one is perfect. But this morning's reporting by the nation's media is inexcusable.
As a cop, I held reporters just slightly above lawyers... But both basically beneath contempt. Because I had always been taught to make sure my facts were straight before filing a report. All the 't's crossed and the 'i's dotted. If I filed a report as half-assed as they rushed off and did this morning and causing the heartbreak they did, I'd have been fired from the police department.
Cops use the same formula as reporters when getting the facts. The Five W's; Who, What, When, Where and Why... Or at least they're supposed to.
Apparently, around midnight, word was leaked that twelve of the thirteen miners were found safe and alive. And this news was immediately passed on the the families of the said miners...
So some reporter, in an effort to make the big scoop and get his or her story on the air first and get the ratings added one more "W" to the list...
Wrong.
And the others followed like lemmings off a cliff, never bothering to check the report and verify.
Only one was found alive, the others perished long before...
Go here:
All night on the radio I heard the same reports... "The 12 WV coal miners found alive!" it wasn't until around 2 AM that Fox News Radio had the real story... But they ran with the story at first also...
ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, Fox... Even this morning's editions of USA Today, The Bluefield Daily Telegraph & the Beckley Register Herald blared the headline, front page, above the fold... "12 Miners Rescued!"
Only one local paper got it right, the Charleston (WV) Gazette...
My heart goes out to the families of those who perished, but it especially goes out to the one man who was found alive... Who was originally reported killed. They even sent officials to his home to report his death.
From what I can gather from various reports, someone overheard mine officials talking to rescue personnel, misunderstood what was being said and ran with it...
Why verify?
What the fuck...
Dewey Beats Truman, The complete clusterfuck of reporting during hurricane Katrina, now this colossal dogfuck.
I'm all for the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, but can we please get a little integrity and ethics back?
Edward R. Murrow, where are you when your country desperately needs you?
Copyright 2006 Thomas J. Wolfenden

9 comments:

Okie said...

Crap like that just pisses me off, too. Like Einstein said, the only infinite thing in the universe is human stupidity.

Courtney said...

So true...that's why I opted not to go into journalism...
I was thinking about you when I heard about the miners, because I thought you lived in that area...

Kat_womanx2 said...

I'm still watching this shit on tv....God only knows what its going to take to rectify all of this...

Golightly said...

CRAP!
Thank goodness I read your blog, I was still thinking that all but one survived b/c they ran that ticker headline during the Orange Bowl last night.
UHM HMM
The media...what can you do? I work in media and sadly, crap like this runs all the time.
Verify? Yeah...right.

Becky said...

Don't take this as me trying to justify what happened but... I can totally see how it happened. Some mine manager overheard the cell phone call of the rescuers ("12 discovered... we're checking the vital signs") and took the colossal leap from there to assume that meant the 12 found were all alive, and took it upon him or herself to up and call the family. The gesture of a good Samaritan, right? I want to know, who's that troglodyte?

Here's what happened: sometime around midnight, the Associated Press, the main source for just about every station or paper known to man, ran a story relating that family members had told them the 12 had survived.

By one or 1:30 in the morning, the AP was reporting that the Governor had also confirmed this report.

By most media standards, this report from the Governor would have been enough to consider the story "verified" and "official." I would have run with it, too. I would have been careful, as the initial AP reports were, to attribute that to the family and governor, and add that mining officials had not confirmed it.

The real tragedy is how long the mining company stayed silent. They knew almost instantly the families had somehow gotten the wrong information, but they said nothing for THREE HOURS.

Most newspapers on the east coast (if they are morning papers) have a three a.m.-ish press deadline. So essentially, if the mining company had spoken up so much as forty-five minutes before they did, much of the newspapers' embarrassing and seemingly insensitive headlines would have been far different.

That's not to excuse any of it. Many of the papers (can't say for sure what it looked like on TV because I was asleep) took AP's "softer" version of the story ("Family members say... ") and ran it without softening it with the attribution. That was pretty irresponsible, in my opinion, and had the effect of strengthening the impact of the story -- making it sound a lot more official than it was.

Just my two cents... again, I don't want to defend those that were irresponsible, but to me what the mining company didn't say was so much more reprehensible than anything that happened on the news.

Cheryl said...

It's the one thing I dread about going into the field, that they are like that. i won't be though. Whoever got it wrong in the first place probably feels just awful...

Lisa said...

I got my BA in Journalism many years ago and even worked at a number of small town papers. Not exactly hard hitting but I got some experience. I got out. There's alot of pressure to be the first to break a story and if its on your beat and your editor finds out you've been scooped (whether the story was right or wrong)he starts screaming at you...

I also got out because alot of the males (that I encountered) in the field were arrogant assholes. And my boss at one paper was such a ginormous, mean spirited asshole that I left and don't even go into that TOWN anymore. I hope he got what was coming to him. He's the only person I've ever met in my life that I wish ill.

But I'm glad I got out.

Ranger Tom said...

Becky: Thanks for putting it into perspective... And letting us know a little more about how the Fourth Estate operates.

honkeie2 said...

Miss Communication, well all know her right? Weapons of mass distruction, Herbel Phen Fen, Atikins, toliet seat spreading crabs, hairy palms, wait and hour before going swimming and all the other fairy tales we have endured through the years. Its just one more to add to the list. To bad journalist cannt be held accountable for what they print and lawyers for freeing killers who kill again. In my bok you print false info you get fired, you find a loop hole to free a killer who kills again you two share a cell. But maybe thats just me.