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Last updated on August 9th, 2017 at 07:28 am
CNN’s Anderson Cooper reviews matters in the wake of yesterday’s misreported Sago mine story:
For those of us in the media, I’m not sure what we could have done to keep this news from spreading like it did.
Well, you could have stopped spreading it. Just a theory.
When you have the governor of the state giving you the thumbs-up, a congresswoman talking about this on air, hundreds of relatives and family members jubilant, some of who received calls from mining officials, it’s tough to ignore what they’re saying.
You can’t ignore the thumb! (“The governor of West Virginia, we are told, just walked out of the church, held up his thumb and said, ‘Believe in miracles. Believe in miracles.’”) Gubernatorial thumbs and congresswomen aren’t exactly your standard go-to sources on mining mortality issues; likewise, anguished friends and relatives are unlikely to supply accurate data after waiting 40 hours for news. A secondhand remark allegedly from a mining official is likewise useless. Besides which, what’s the point of CNN paying millions for Cooper’s journalistic expertise when we can get the same misinformation from some nameless guy running around a church with a cell phone?
We had more reporters on this story and in more places than anyone else—Randi Kaye, Joe Johns, Sanjay Gupta interviewing the doctor.
And you still screwed up. Any chance of an apology? No, because it’s all the mining company’s fault:
We now know company officials had information they chose to withhold. At the very least, we know there was conflicting information in their hands. They chose to withhold that information.
Agreed; the mining company moved too slowly (and whoever were the command centre guys who contacted family members with premature good news, good luck coping with the nightmares). But company reaction was forced by CNN, Fox, and MSNBC moving too quickly, a point Cooper simply won’t concede.
The bottom line is that there are 12 families in mourning today. That is what this story is about. It is easy to get caught up in the drama of the moment and the horrible roller coaster of emotions.
Easy for you, maybe. The pros at the Elkins Inter-Mountain (circulation: 11,000) seemed calm enough:
[Editor Linda] Skidmore adds that her staff never believed the miners had been found alive because no official word was ever given. She said no update about miners being found alive ever appeared on the paper’s Web site, either.
“I was on the phone with her and I was hearing things on CNN and FOX that she was not hearing there,” [editor Linda] Skidmore said about reporter Becky Wagoner. “She heard that the miners were alive just before it was broadcast, around midnight. She talked about hearing church bells ringing and people yelling in jubilation—but nothing official.”
Just one reporter at the scene, and she did better than CNN’s swarm of camera pixies. Could be a lesson there. Back to Cooper:
There need to be investigations about what happened. And there will be.
Good. A complete investigation might result in a more rigorous fact-checking protocol being established for live news broadcasts. Oh, wait; I accidentally omitted a few words from that last quote:
There need to be investigations about what happened in the mine. And there will be.
Who’s your source on that, Cooper?
UPDATE. Sydney Morning Herald New York correspondent Mark Coultan:
In a devastating blow to relatives of miners missing after an underground explosion in West Virginia, officials at the disaster site retracted an announcement that there were 12 survivors, saying later that only one miner had survived.
UPDATE II. CNN president Jonathan Klein:
Our coverage was outstanding on every level. Unlike print, which has to live with its mistakes etched in stone, TV is able to correct itself immediately.
CNN didn’t correct itself; CNN was corrected.
UPDATE III. Cooper earlier in CNN’s broadcast:
Our pledge over the next two hours is not to be traffic and rumor. We’re not going down the road of speculation. We’re only looking for facts. Because God knows, there are a lot of people who have a personal involvement watching right now. We don’t want to give them any misleading information.
UPDATE IV. Given events, shouldn’t the show be re-named Anderson Cooper 180°?
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