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Lessons from the Sago mine debacle


Juicee News features this anonymous eyewitness account of Tuesday evening's events:

I thought you might want a first hand account of what happened with the mining tragedy in WV. The incident occurred just 30 minutes from where I am from in West Virginia….Both my uncle and my cousin were underground in the mine when the explosion occured. Fortunately, both were able to make it out, as they weren’t as far down as the 12 that were involved. All of this information is coming directly from my uncle via my aunt.

First of all, apparently, the miscommunication arose from a man who happened to pick up cell phone conversations from the command center on his home scanner. Apparently, the transmission was broken up, and he mistakenly took that the 12 were alive. My cousin’s father in law was on the rescue crew that found the 12. He said that when he found them, they were all sitting in a circle holding hands, and all were dead except one ….

There's that darn scanner. I knew it had to turn up somewhere. It's also quite possible that many other miscommunications figured in the chain of events that led to Tuesday night's tragically misplaced euphoria.

I'm sure that in the coming days a better picture of precisely who told what to whom will emerge. Already there are reports that people in the command center itself were confused by reports they were hearing from the rescue workers underground and that some command center personnel may have made unauthorized phone calls to outsiders.

Three lessons emerge from Sago's heartbreak:

First, that small communities don't keep anything secret for very long (particularly when there are scanners and cell phones lying around).

Second, that people are far more likely to believe news they want to hear than news they don't.

And, third, that for all their self-professed objectivity and skepticism, journalists are just as apt to believe what they want to hear as the rest of us.

(They just take greater pains to avoid getting caught at it.)

Posted by Rodger on January 5, 2006 at 03:09 AM | Permalink


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