Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The WV Mine Communication Breakdown

How did so much miscommunication happen over the Sago catastrophe? John Cole has the whole story.

Apparently there were communication problems between the rescue team in the mine and the rescue HQ at the mine site, and the discovery of the twelve men was interpreted to be the discovery of twelve living men. This was then transmitted not by way of the formal protocol set-up by Governor Manchin (himself a victim of the 1968 Farmington disaster), but instead someone at the mine site (or nearby listening in to a scanner or 2-way radio) contacted someone via cell phone.

From there, things went down hill. Gov. Manchin was in the church with the families, and someone ran in and yelled “They’re Alive!” Chaos ensued, the church bells went off, and the entire town began to wake up and congregate at the church. The media members didn’t check with anyone, and spread the story as if it were true. The media coverage, if you will, reified the news with their blanket coverage and their own elation.

Gov. Manchin and his staff, who could not confirm the story, left the church to go to the mine site. On his way to the car (or at some point around this time), Gov. Manchin said something to the effect of “Miracles can still happen,” and the unfortunate families interpreted this as confirmation from the Governor. Only when Manchin got to the actual mine site did his staff begin to learn the news that the earlier communication was inaccurate.

At that point, many people are wondering why the company and the Governor did not ‘correct’ the rumors at the church. From my understanding, the company nor the Governor had any way to ‘correct’ the record. As neither had officially made a statement and done anything to get the hopes of these families up, what could they say now- “Don’t get too excited, we don’t know how many people are alive.” How could they comment at all, when they had no idea what the right numbers were, and were not responsible for the elation at the church? They simply had no idea how many people were alive, and could not possibly make any official statements.

There's so much more in the post. Definitely read the whole thing. What is especially intriguing how was how the media jumped to confirm the false euphoria of those with hope. This morning I saw on Fox News footage of the Greatest Reporter of All Time (tm) Geraldo Rivera watching everyone run and scream last night in WV and watch as he tried at first ("Who told you they're alive? Where did you here this?") and then collapsed to join the celebration. The reporters were easily duped and could have saved so many false hope by working harder at confirming their sources. The MSM failed again, by adding to the feeding frenzy in a way that stoops to the lowest level of professionalism practiced by, well, bloggers like us, by not corroborating anything even with their massive resources.