Friday, January 06, 2006

Oh, those bad reporters...

I'm really starting to get irritated over the way people are attacking the media over the misunderstandings surrounding the recent mining tragedy. That the governor (who surely was getting his information from people at the scene) was wrong seems totally OK, but the media is expected to read minds.

It fascinates me how politicians aren't expected to know what they are talking about. From yellowcake uranium to this, they get a complete pass, but when people percieve that the media has screwed up, the claws some out in such a huge and serious way.

I'm sorry, but I've been a reporter and a source calling you up and saying "Uh.. that thing I told you? People are mad at me for telling you, so I'm going to say it's not true from now on," or "I'm not sure it happened the way I told you it did, yeah, I know I said I was positive at the time..." happens. And sometimes it happens on stories where the now obviously flaky source was the only witness to something and independent confirmation of what they said is just not available. A good reporter friend of mine got sued for printing something that she had no way of knowing wasn't true.

(e.g. In the case of the miners, people in the communications booth at the mining company thought they were alive and told people, then found out they weren't and didn't. There was nobody else down there other than the mining company. I guess all the really self-righteous folks who are complaining would have dug down themselves, but you'll pardon me if I forgive the reporters for taking the mining folks at their word. True, they listened to what the regular joes had said rather than waiting for the official PR statement, but usually it is the regular guys who know what they are talking about and the PR guys who get things wrong. If I had to guess, the news just got out when the news was good, but as soon as they found out the news was bad, the PR guys made them shut up so they could prepare an official statement.)

I promise you that when you find out a source has changed their story, your editor hates you and you hate yourself. But it has nothing to do with malice on your part and I can't imagine why people think it would. Maybe they all have jobs where they've never made a mistake and nobody has ever screwed them over.



Bill Baar said...

The problem here is the media's source was the families. The families heard from a source we have yet to see named.

That source will be sued so it may be a while to see him or her named.

The reporters rushed to a story and anyone who's covered these things know that.

There is a problem with the company and the state not correcting sooner, but once this is out of the box its a problem.

It's just hard to give the media a pass here. They handled it very badly.

Bill Baar said...

PS. I was involved in a situation with a hospital fire. An employee called the local News Radio to break the story and get $100 finder fee. The employee said that patients were being evacuated.

It was false story. There was a fire but it broke out in area away from patients and was quickly contained.

The radio story launced a huge response from surrounding fire Depts. (It was big hospital).

The employee was fired and lucky that was the only punishment.