Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Embarrassing journalism

This morning's reporting of the coal mining tragedy in West Virginia is nothing short of a journalistic embarrassment. Media outlets across the board reported early this morning that 12 miners were found alive and were being sent to the hospital. Naturally, their families rejoiced. The truth, which the mining company waited three hours to share with the families and the public, was that the bodies of 12 miners had been found. They were all dead (except a 13th miner who was found alive earlier and is in critical condition).

Of course, the mining company screwed up, but so did news outlets which unquestioningly passed on the news. They forgot the old maxim, "Trust your mother loves you, but check it out."

Luckily, broadcast and web outlets had the opportunity to correct the error before most of us woke up this morning. Print journalism wasn't so lucky. How embarrassing for Salt Lake's Deseret Morning News which chose to downplay the Abramoff story and even the murder of two Mormon missionaries and instead lead with the mining "miracle."

Update: Deseret News explains how it reacted to late news

Denver Post: Use of 'miracle' a journalistic travesty
Anderson Cooper explains CNN coverage
Poynter: Stopping the presses and getting it right
USA Today on what went wrong
New York Times: "Stop the Presses!"
LA Times: West coast papers benefit from time zone


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The opinions stated here are my own and in no way reflect those of Brigham Young University, its students, faculty, or sponsoring institution.