The confirmation of the tragedy in West Virginia was also a confirmation of the expiration date on the mainstream media's finger-wagging at the blogosphere. Through my years toiling in the MSM, I've personally sat on at least half a dozen panels on "Why the People Hate the Media." For the next one, I suggest just rolling the news coverage of how, within hours, the West Virginia story went from tragedy to triumph to tragedy.
At this afternoon's press conference, the whole thing is still being blamed on a "miscommunication" of cell phone calls. The miners had simply been found by the rescuers -- but their condition hadn't been checked yet, let alone verified. But that didn't matter.
Not only did the Washington Post report the miners had been found alive, it added a few details: "The miners had apparently done what they had been taught to do: barricaded themselves in a pocket with breathable air and awaited rescue."
Over on Fox News, Rita Crosby was so breathless with the reports of "a miracle" and her interviews of family members that I began to fear for her health.
Throughout the entire story, however, no outlet was quoting any official source from the actual rescue team. By the middle of the night, they literally had to stop the presses.
Greg Mitchell, at Editor and Publisher, has collected the progression of AP headlines:
Families Say 12 W.Va. Miners Found Alive (11:59 PM)
12 Trapped W.Va. Miners Found Alive (12:34 AM)
Singing Erupts After Miners Found Alive (2:49 AM)
Families Say 11 of 12 W.Va. Miners Dead (3:06 AM)
Miners Reported Alive After Blast Are Dead (4:08 AM)
12 Confirmed Dead in W.Va. Mine Blast (5:26 AM)
Feds Vow Full Probe of W.Va. Mine Blast (6:58 AM)
Jubiliation [sic] Turns to Anger, Outrage (7:20 AM)
And now, of course, the story moves into the blame phase in which the TV anchors berate the officials and the officials berate the cell phones and their reluctance to put an end to the celebrations!
The irony is that the way these "news stories" get played out by TV news outlets is actually more rushed than blogging. It takes longer to sit and think and type 500 words than it does to rush a "big scoop" on the air.
A former cable TV news staffer emailed me this morning about "how often and easily mistakes are made that result in untruths being blasted all over the world. It's a room of adrenaline pumped producers who are salivating for anything to nudge up ratings."
That's a good image to remember the next time you hear some pundit lecturing us about the "recklessness" of bloggers.