Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Miscommunication vs Irresponsible Reporting

"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." -- Thomas Jefferson

Yesterday, I posted a little bit about the story of the 12 miners first reported alive but later discovered to be dead due to a "miscommunication". My position was that the journalists covering the story were irresponsible in not verifying the veracity of their reports.

Blogger buddy ER, whom I respect immensely, and is in the newspaper business, had this to say:

"...don't confuse the idiots on cable "news" shows with journalism. TV "news" has sucked since Murrow died. There's a REASON for news editors, and TV producers are NOT editors in the journalistic sense.

You will not find me defending anything any TV "news" organization does."

With that in mind, I now inform you that at this very minute, I am holding in my youthful looking, pudgy little 54 year old hands, a copy of the "Hagerstown Morning Herald" which is the local newspaper for these parts. The headlines blare, in approximately 36 point type, "12 W.Va Miners found alive". Unless I miss my guess, this is a newspaper.

Interestingly enough, when preparing to write this post, I went to the Herald Mail website (The Morning Herald is the morning version of the Herald Mail) and I found the story, with a slight alteration. Now the same newspaper reads, "Tragic reversal -- 12 dead in W.Va. mine explosion"

No where in the revised story is there a hint of "oops, our bad." miscommunication? Hardly. Arrogance? You bet.

Actually, the subsequent information that came filtering through in regard to the story indicates that the miscommunication was a result of a code that was devised to keep the main base apprised on the progress of the rescue efforts. Apparently, the rescuers imparted the information to base camp that there were 12 men dead, but the base understood the exact opposite. Nothing but a simple misunderstanding. Perhaps they should have made sure all concerned understood the code sufficiently. Whatever.

So, the rescue team, the CEO of the mine company, the spokesman, the family members, even the Governor of the great state of West Virginia get a pass on this one.

But the journalists still don't.

Why am I being so hard on the media, you might ask?

Because the press has an obligation to the public to get the information accurate. They cannot afford to rely on rumors, misinformation, unreliable sources, or supposition. It is their responsibility to make sure the information they are dispersing to the public is verified. To do less is to end up in the embarrassing situation that they find themselves in today.

They know their job, and part of that job is making sure they are reporting the news accurately.

How difficult would it have been to hold off on the reporting of this story until they had made absolutely certain that there could not possibly be any mistakes? When the ambulance was loaded and sent off to the hospital with the survivor, couldn't have some enterprising reporter simply asked one of the men who carried the survivor out of the mine if there were any others?

Lone Ranger, another blogger buddy who is also a journalist, has, in his blog, admitted to being embarrassed for his profession because of this story. I have always respected him, but now I respect him all the more for having the guts to admit that his profession made a colossal blunder. "It takes a big man to admit mistakes", my mother always said.

On the other hand, remember Dan Rather and Mary Mapes and the story that was based on forged documents? Believe it or not, they still insist the information in those forged documents is accurate. That is the epitome of arrogance. I guess Dan Rather is not a big man.

Then there was the stories that were reported during the Hurricane Katrina disaster that were mostly based on rumors, not facts. Not verified. One rumor that got reported was that there was cannibalism going on there. That was, on the surface, under the surface, and deep below the surface, ludicrous.

There are other examples but I don't want to make this post much longer than it already is, so I'll leave the reader to do his own research.

One other observation here. Has anyone else noticed that the press calls this little embarrassment the result of "miscommunication", but they call the faulty pre war intelligence (which I still insist is unproven) "lies" ?

What is the difference? Well, for one thing, we know for a undisputed fact that 12 miners are dead, and they were originally reported as alive. We do not know for an undisputed fact that there was no WMD in Iraq.

It would seem to me that the miscommunication would more likely be characterized a lie than the pre war intel. After all, the story of the mine explosion is 100% verifiable, yet the press decided not to verify it in their eagerness to "get the story out". Whether WMD exists is, so far, unverifiable.

Wait. Maybe if FOX news and Newsmax reports it, it is a lie, but if the NYT does, it is miscommunication. Yeah, that's it. I think I have it figured out now.


The WordSmith from Nantucket said...


I think the news cameras that were on scene, were ok in reporting what they saw: namely, jubilant people. That's news. That happened. But it is, at the very least, embarrassing that newspapers went to the printing press with their mistaken headlines (will these now be collector items?). I've hated this coverage from the very beginning, just as I hated the Aruba coverage and all the others where we are over-saturated with a single story. There's so much else going on the world; and I don't say this to be callous toward the friends and family of the 12 dead miners.

Has anyone else noticed that the press calls this little embarrassment the result of "miscommunication", but they call the faulty pre war intelligence (which I still insist is unproven) "lies" ?

What has crossed my mind, is how agenda-driven things are. This came to my mind while watching a Letterman clip of O'Reilly on his show. Letterman's whole attitude revealed that he parrots the kind of news pushed by MSM. Just look at how the wire-tapping business is being characterized. They've already condemned President Bush as having violated his Constitutional authority, mischaracterized it as domestic wire-tapping, and scare-mongered you into thinking he personally is listening in on your conversation and that this is the most repressive regime in the history of the world. It is utter garbage. There are as many Constitutional law professors that will tell you that the President has acted within his authoritative rights as there are who think otherwise.

Lone Ranger said...

Print journalists have what we in broadcasting call "screenis envy." They seem to think that since Gutenberg didn't invent TV, they are superior to broadcast journalists. But the fact is, broadcasters can put breaking news on the air as it happens, while newspapers report yesterday's news today. I think papers are going the way of the town crier. I haven't picked one up in years, except when I've had to pad a package or line a bird cage. Having said that, what happened in the mining story is inexcusable. Journalists reported assumptions as fact. If the camera doesn't see it, it shouldn't be assumed to be true. As I said on my blog, I was sitting at my computer when the first bulletin came out, but did not post it and went to bed about an hour into the story doubting its validity. When I woke up at three a.m. the REAL story had broken. Everybody was wrong except I. Had I not been off that night, I'd have opposed my editor who would have ordered me to get it on the air anyway. And then I'd have had some really quality gloating time. It wouldn't be the first time. I don't know why they quality of journalism is going down hill, but I blame it on our education system.

tugboatcapn said...

Mark, ER is going to drive to your house, and have a fit in your front yard...

Old Soldier said...

My heart and prayers go out to the families of the fallen miners.

Great job of contrasting the "fault" difference between "miscommunications" and "lied about WMD".

Mark said...

I really owe ER an apology. He said what he said and I gloated over it, and that wasn't very nice of me. Also I wrote this post before I clicked over to his place and saw that he made the point that many newpapers ran with this story because it was press time or whatever the paper business phrase is. Yes, ER, they did make a mistake. But they shuld know better. They are professionals.

Toad734 said...

When every news source in the country makes the same mistake it's hard to come out firing against "the media". Obviously no one could be expected to truly verify the situation seeing as how the miners were a MILE UNDER THE GROUND. You have to go with what information is being reported at the scene and rumor or not, the information was that they were alive. Of course news papers could have opted to not print anything about the mine explosion but then guess who sells papers that day?

Mark said...

Nice try, Toad, but that's no excuse. They have an obligation to get the facts straight. They could have verified it, even if it would have taken them a few more minutes to make sure. They dropped the ball, pure and simple.

They have no excuse and shouldn't be given a pass on this one.

Mark said...

"Obviously no one could be expected to truly verify the situation seeing as how the miners were a MILE UNDER THE GROUND"?

They could have gone directly to the miners coming out from a mile under the ground and asked them. Why didn't they? because they were so eager to get the story out, that's why.

No excuse.

Gayle said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gayle said...

I made a mistake on My Republican Blog and posted a retraction and an apology. I also went around to everyone who had commented on the post and let them know there was a retraction and an apology posted on my blog.

Now get this: The only person so far who was ungracious about it was Toad! This shows, without a doubt, the total hypocracy of the left. I am not a trained journalist; I am a blogger. Yet I put up a post immediately upon finding out my error and apologized profusedly. He certainly "fired" against me, but we aren't supposed to put blame on what are supposed to be "professional journalists."

GIVE ME A BREAK, TOAD! You have revealed yourself to be exactly who you are, a total hippocrite! Also, one of Mark's points was that the MSM never printed a retraction or an apology. I did.

Now you know who Toad really is Mark... but I'll bet you did already! :)

Also, just so you know, the Washington Post has it that the miners were trapped in a tunnel that was 260' straight down, and almost 2 miles in horizontally.

Gayle said...

I deleted the first comment, because, shown along with the second one it became redundant.

"The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers." -- Thomas Jefferson"

It probably may accurately be said now that the man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who does nothing other than watch television!

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

This brings me to another gripe about newspapers. When they make mistakes, no matter how big or how small, you really have to hunt through the paper for the next two weeks with your magnifying glass, looking for a retraction, apology, and correction. The frontpage slander in big blurb...followed by the buried on page A18 in small print admission of error. If you only saw the initial reporting and the big headline, it might be a long time before you ever realize what you have come away believing in, is not so.

KEvron said...

"Why did you sic Kevron on me?"

that is so sweet....


KEvron said...

gayle got the story wrong the same way ALL of the media got ti wrong: miscommunication.

look, if one or two got it wrong, that's one thing. those sources should be suspect. but, as geraldo rivera said, this wasn't some rumor that got wispered from ear to ear. the news spread like wild fire at the site of the tragedy. considering the dire nature of the events, it's not hard to see why people ran with it, including the media.

did the families ofthe lost here the news from the media, or from the same sources as the media. i don't know, but if the media wasn't their source, then big deal. this story shouldn't have been carried nationally anyway. but the media is savvy; they know what sells. they're business, just the way the right wants them to be.


Erudite Redneck said...

I just now got to this. This error was compounded by the timing of news cycles, the reality that it costs oddles of money to either delay a press start or stop and restart a press, which I tried to explain briefly at my place yesterday.

Also, I wrote what I wrote regarding the TV people baeed on my own middle-of-the-night observations, and before I'd seen any newspaper coverage.

The AP story, if the version in my local paper was the one that went o0ut to all newspapers, is hideous. There is NO attribution, which is the cardial sin. The fact that the report was unconfirmed was not mentioned for several grafs, which means that it was missed by most layout editors laying out that late story on deadline. The AP goofed horribly. Newspapers that ran that story from The AP without qualification goofed, too.

You're right, though, Mark. The press, as the Fourth Estate,m is about as contrite when it makes a mistakes as the three actual branches of government. Feel free to condemn the press. I expect you to be as quick in condemning the goverment for its mistakes.

As for myself, I am personally sickened by the mistakes of my brethren in the press. The fact that it was as much as product of timing and mechanical limitations is no excuse. The fact that personal observation by reporters on the scene, and false reports from officials both said the miners were found alive -- that's no excuse.

There's an old saw in the news business that needs to be dusted off and put on big signs in newsrrooms all over the country:

"If you mom says she loves you, check it out."

All the energy that goes into doubting the president should be extended to every other source ever encountered.

KEvron said...

"....about as contrite when it makes a mistakes as the three actual branches of government."

what would be an appropriate act of contrition from the media in this case?


Erudite Redneck said...

OK. NOw I've read the comments.

Gayle, re: "Now get this: The only person so far who was ungracious about it was Toad! This shows, without a doubt, the total hypocracy of the left."

Uh, no, darlin' -- it shows only that Toad can be a jerk sometimes. As can I.

Peace out.

Erudite Redneck said...


I can't speak for TV.

But every newspasper in the country that got this wrong should have explained itself and apologized today, on the front page. The one I work for did not, to my embarrassment.

KEvron said...

"The one I work for did not, to my embarrassment."

that's not good. did they at least print a retraction? to tell you the truth, that's all i expect from a news source when it's been in error.


KEvron said...

"I can't speak for TV."

i do hold the written press to a higher standard than i do broadcast news. i can understand your disappointment.


Mark said...

Kev, " it's not hard to see why people ran with it, including the media"

You are right. It isn't hard to see why they ran with it.

But it's still no excuse.

Now, the important thing to concentrate on is, what have we learned from this? Or more appropriately, what has the press learned from this?

Mark said...

Gayle, I think ER is right. It only shows Toad can be a jerk, and ER can be also. As can I.

Mike's America said...

Oh yes... the print media is MUCH better.

On the day when Iraq elected the first free parliament in the Arab world, my local rag "The Island Packet" ran the headline above the fold "Iraq vote pointless" followed by three paragraphs of every bad thing about Iraq you could fit in three paragraphs and NOT ONE SENTENCE OF BALANCE. They paired it with another above the fold bit "Election marred by violence"


And don't even get me started on the New York Al Queda Times.

KEvron said...

"....what has the press learned from this?"

well, we can agree that, contrition or no, they have amended the story. we all are painfully aware of the mistake, after all.

i'm sure they learn all the time. and despite this, they will contintinue to make mistakes. yes, i'm aware of how seemingly egregious this particular mistake is, but i think that's due more to the nature of the story, and less the actual flawed methodology (actually, i'm sure their methodolgy is sound; it's the failure to follow it that is the flaw). had it not been a story of such dire cosequences, yet on the same scale, i don't think we'd be discussing it right now.

my grievance is that this story went national at all. news became a bottom-line venture, and "spectacular!" sells.


KEvron said...

"And don't even get me started on the New York Al Queda Times."

priceless dribble! and "no fank you" to your anecdotal evidence.


Erudite Redneck said...

Dr. ER just told me something that makes me feel loads better, and it is the damn truth:

One of the survivors said that many of the survivors believe that if not for the press -- both TV and print -- that this whole damnable mess would have been swept under the rug by the UNION-less comapny that owns the mine. She said so based on previous experience with previous safety issues.

As bad as the press in this country can suck sometimes, it beats the alternative, which, actually is the same as can be said about our form of government.

And yes, Mike's America, the print press IS much better. Beat the living EFF out of any blog, mine included, your p.o.s. especially.

KEvron said...


thank the good dr. for their perspective on the matter. i was unaware of this.

honor labor. vote "union: yes!"

KEvron, ibew, local 6

Mark said...

I nust admit, newspapers are good for detail. You don't get a lot of detail in TV and radio news reports.

But please don't call Mikes blog a p.o.s. You disagree with him. Let that suffice.

KEvron said...

okay, just got back from mike's blog.



Erudite Redneck said...

I want y'all to know that I went to bed, felt bad for calling Mike's blog a p.o.s., and got back up to come back in here and retract it.

It's a fine blog. A fine right-wing blog. I disagree with everything on it, that I've seen. But it's a fine righty blog.

Now I can go to sleep.

Peace out.

KEvron said...

i won't be losing any sleep....


Gayle said...

Ok, so Toad can be a jerk sometimes, as can Er, as can you (as you admit) and so can I, but not intentionally.

This is my point. I made a mistake. I printed a retraction. Many peoply read the mistake. When I realized I had posted a hoax I immediately went to everyone who posted there and apologized. I also told them a retraction and apology was posted on my blog.

So how come all the conservatives came back into my blog and accepted my apology with grace and the only one who was overbearring and somewhat nasty about it was Toad? Just curious. He's never even been to my blogs, either one of them before. And your answer is "he can be a jerk sometimes."

I'm disappointed.

Mark said...

Gayle, everyone makes mistakes. I don't hold that against you. And you are right. Toad is a jerk much more often than he isn't. I suspect he found your blog through mine. He loves to come in here and insult Bush and/or the Republicans. I am used to him. His bloviations are water off a ducks back to me. At least he isn't as bad as Bruiser. Usually.

But as you pointed out once, I am too nice.

Beyond that, I don't know what you want me to say.

TECH said...

Well, Gayle, I thought my comment on your apology showed that I appreciated your effort, but as a liberal, I was totally ignored by you and your conservative friends.

(Hold your breath, ER. I'm about to make a provocative comment like you want. Well, as much as I can, I mean.)

But I've come to expect that from so-called conservatives. They ignore or devalue any viewpoint that is counter to their own. If you call them on this, they say "all liberals" do the same. They ignore that I am a liberal and do NOT do that. Conservatives have many good points that I agree with. They also have points I disagree with. Likewise with liberals. Perhaps I am a moderate ... except the conservatives reject me because I hold some liberal viewpoints while the liberals at least endure my conservative leanings. Thus I end firmly in the liberal camp because they will have me while the conservatives will not.

As for the miner story, yes, it was wrong. Yes, it was terrible. Yes, they made a mistake. Yes, an apology would be nice. However, they are not perfect. The Bible points out that nothing on this earth is perfect. To expect perfection from them is to ignore that an organization is made up of fallible humans. Judge not ... This is true, I might add, of religions. I constantly run into people who reject Christianity because some wrongdoing in the church. Grow up. As long as churches are run by imperfect humans, there will be mistakes. Understanding that is the first step in forgiveness: Recognizing that we all make mistakes and all need forgiveness.

Finally, good news stations have been tried. You can find several stories about TV stations that attempted to only show good news. They went out of business. I wish it wasn't true, but disasters and murders hold the public's attention while good news will not. This is an example where the media reflect our culture. We need to change our culture and rejoice in good news. I notice that neither this blog nor Gayle's (or ER's for that matter) focus on good news. Why? Because you get more attention and comments by the rigid, unforgiving, and intolerant viewpoints you hold.

There. While hardly in ER's and Mark's class, this should generate something.

TECH said...

By the way, before anyone else points it out, I was judgmental in the above comment. I apologize, but still think my words have some merit.

Erudite Redneck said...

Pretty ranty stuff for Tech!

Slim said...

See? That's exactly why you can't stir up controversy on your blog, Tech. You're just too even-handed. You're just too damn ADULT. Even when you fire a shot, you have to apologize for it. Attacking you is like attacking the Pope or our mothers. While people can do that, no one respects them afterwards. :)

You need to pick up some faults. I suggest overdrinking and sexual sins. Then you wouldn't give the rest of us headaches! :)

This is all in fun in case you didn't know. I wouldn't want to offend you ever. For one thing, I respect you, and for another, I figure you've the most chance of all of us of getting into heaven if it exists and I'll need someone friendly there!

By the by, this is a far-right blog. I'm surprised you drop by here. I wouldn't if you hadn't been so proud of your testy comment.

Mark said...

For the record, Tech, I know you lean to the left and I still like you and value your opinions. You are truly fair and balanced.

If I ever disagree with something you say, I may mention it or I may not, but if I mention it you can be sure it will be respectful, as you have alsways been respectful of me.

Mark said...

Slim, welcome to my blog! It IS a "right" blog, as opposed to a "wrong" one. LOL! I don't know about far right.

I do have a Liberal bone or two in my body somewhere. You just have to be patient and eventually it will pop up, usually in the most unexpected places!

Seriously though, come back soon and often. All comments are welcome from all sides, providing they are at least somewhat respectful and "Family friendly" as far as language is concerned.

I try to be respectful myself unless I get angry, and then, I reserve the right to be rude, since it's my place.:)

TECH said...

Thank you, Mark. And I don't lump you in with the "other" conservatives since I've always felt you looked at both sides and spent some time considering your stances. I may disagree with them, but I don't think they're mindless. Perhaps we are just both exceptions to the general rule. We should start a political party ... :)

Anonymous said...

Can I join?

I love parties...

Mark said...

Maybe we should, Tech. We could call it the Common Sense party.

I nominate you for President.

Then, I will quit and bask in the glory of the knowledge that I did something altruistic for once.