Huge, inexcusable mistakes were made by members of the mainstream media in the reporting of the West Virginia Mine Explosion. As a matter of fact, the people responsible for the mistakes that were made in the coverage of this story should lose their jobs. More on that in a minute.
Meanwhile over here in the blogosphere, some of our members made mistakes as well. The major mistake made by these bloggers was to assume that what the mainstream was reporting was accurate.
By following the lead of the mainstream media, some of our ranks may have lost sight of exactly why we exist.
Even though most of us recognize that the mainstream media has lost their way and needs to be overhauled, some of us may reflexively – subconsciously or otherwise – still trust the mainstream in times of crisis. Just as many people still trust – or want to have trust in – the government.
This kind of trust is deep-seeded in our psyche and comes from having mainstream media types lionized over the past 100 years via our entertainment complex. Also, these media types follow the lead of “Hollywood,” and reinforce this image when they act the part and do everything in their power to become bigger than the news that they cover.
Through people and characters like Lou Grant, Woodward and Bernstein, Clark Kent, Walter Winchell, Walter Cronkite, Ben Bradlee, and Perry White we’ve been conditioned to respect members of the media, to look to them for comfort in times of crisis and to treat them as heroes and keepers of “the truth.” As 2006 has rolled around, most of us know better, but old habits die hard, especially under duress and stress.
In the case of the Mine Disaster our bloggers seemed to forget that the media – the old media – is flawed and not to be trusted or “followed,” especially by us.
The coverage of this Mine Disaster should be the defining moment for bloggers. There should never be another instance where blog accounts follow along the same lines as the mainstream media accounts.
After all, what would be the reason for reporting the same thing on your blog that people can find on Yahoo or Google News, or on CNN or Fox, or in the online version of a local paper? If we do this kind of reporting just to get hits, we’re cheapening our effort; we undermine our fight for credibility and become the thing that we fight against.
There is no reason to just pick up on something already reported on by the networks, newspapers, and news organizations if we can’t question it or add something to it.
In this instance if you go back and read accounts of what was going on, there’s no specific mention of where the news that the miners were still alive came from. Professional media types – editors and writers – should be ashamed of themselves for going to print or to the airwaves with this “news.” And people should lose their jobs as a result of this sloppiness.
Bloggers should have noticed that there was no mention of anything that attributed this hopeful news to anyone. Hindsight is 20/20, and for a reason. We have to be able to recognize when mistakes are made, and how to make sure the same mistakes don’t happen again.
For bloggers who followed the lead established by the establishment and echoed these reports, I’m not looking to blame, but chalking this up as a growing pain. After all, we haven’t been around that long, and there are always instances from which we can learn.
As a result of this whole mishegas, our rallying cry should be – for the final time – “we won’t be fooled again.”
Sometimes people follow the lead of people they used to respect, even though they should know better. But at some point in this process you have to finally cut the cord. Let us use the coverage of this Mine Disaster as the time we as bloggers cut the cord to the mainstream media and remember why we are here.
Personally, I decided to blog because I was dissatisfied with the coverage, tone and style of coverage that existed – and still exists – in the fitness and sports media. I don’t blog just so I can be like the talking heads on ESPN, the contributors to ESPN.com or writers who work for America’s dailies and magazines. I blog because I want to offer something different, an alternative to what I see as substandard and shallow coverage of subjects that are important to me.
Hopefully, bloggers will learn from this example of how not to cover a story like this and as a result will let the members of the mainstream media be the only ones that operate with egg on their collective face.