Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Sago Coal Mine Explosion

A LookBack at Ancient History.

How many papers got the headline wrong? How many got it correct? Was this mistake a shoddy product, dangerous to public welfare, or safety? Will there be a recall?

Three days into 2006 the biggest news was not the mine but the press screw up. ( I remain astonished that some press calls were made wondering why the company waited so long to, essentially correct bad press. Why was it the responsibility of the mine to correct and verify the press reporting? Were they admitting to explosions and accidents in their veracity?) What will be taken away from this news story? That 12 miners died. That the papers were wrong.
I am less wanting the papers to go away any longer, than wanting them to be more like the blogs, that is, an interactive media. Of course, they are ephemeral, printed on a quickly yellowing medium, equally useful to wrap garbage and fish entrails as to propagate the former or divine the latter. Nevertheless, I wish they could regain some reputation for thoroughness, credibility, thoughtfulness and depth. On one of his posts, Craig Westover, both of the Pioneer Press and of his blog, commented that the best bloggers work around ideas and formulate argument. The papers print viewpoints of the several factions, yet promote no discussion. I am not hopeful in the short term. They have been overtaken by a speedier medium, yet still end up on more dining tables that my poor verbiage. Yet they continue to screw up; fun for us to be sure, but rather than watching them slowly bleed out for the sport, I wish they would join in the hunt for the truth rather than rushing in for the kill . I forget which paper it was, but a small one some thirty miles from the Sago mine got it right. They knew about the locals' police scanner listening habits. They waited. They understood that the 'story' wasn't about them.
One of the oddest things I've ever seen happened at an auction. One of the auctioneers bid on an item he was also auctioning. He should have said, "I am going to step out of the center ring and let Roy call this one so I can bid on this." He pointed to a bidder, "Now five! Then six!", (his own bid), and so on. It was unnerving, and weird. The press, at least the electronic one, seems like this to me. Auctioneers driving up the price, buying and selling at the same time.

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