Wednesday, January 04, 2006

No miner mistake

As everybody now knows, 12 of the 13 miners trapped in the Sago Mine in West Virginia are now reported dead after having been initially listed as alive. In addition to being traumatic for everyone involved, this development has also led to awkward media coverage. Wednesday's Daily Advertiser perfectly illustrates what happens when a time-sensitive print medium can't quite catch up to breaking developments. Along with a small front-page article that cites inconclusive developments, the front section carries an Associated Press dispatch on the incident. I wish to save it for posterity, because it says a lot about corporate accountability, the human response to tragedies and the sometimes poor timing of the media.

Families say 12 miners found alive

TALLMANSVILLE, W. Va. (AP)--Twelve miners caught in an explosion in a coal mine were found alive late Tuesday, more than 41 hours after the blast, family members said.

Bells at a church where relatives had been gathering rang out as family members ran out screaming in jubilation. Relatives yelled, "They're alive!"

"Miracles happen in West Virginia and today we got one," said Charlotte Weaver, wife of Jack Weaver, one of the men who had been trapped in the mine. "I got scared a lot of times, but I couldn't give up," she said. "We have an 11-year-old son, and I couldn't tell him, 'Daddy wasn't coming home.'" [...]

Neither the company nor the governor's office immediately confirmed that the men were alive.

This has really got to hurt for the mother quoted in the article, who now has to tell her young son the same thing that she was grateful that she didn't have to tell him before. Will she be able to rationalize that God has called him home? Is that really any consolation after the initial rush of joy? There's just no way.

In my experience, nothing makes one feel worse than the feeling that something miraculous has transpired, only to have it jarringly yanked away from you a short time later. In 1979, my aunt and uncle had just finished refurbishing a huge house and were expecting a baby within a month, when she was killed in a car accident. My grandfather beat severe liver backup in 1998, only to be felled by pancreatic cancer months later. A high-school athlete friend of mine won a trip to the Summer Olympics in 2000, only to suddenly drop dead shortly after returning home. Watching the Saints is also very much like that, albeit on a footballier level.

Compounding these losses is the prospect of having to see the happy stories in print, knowing that they have already been deflated. As much as it freaks me out to bring up yet another young death, I remember another unfortunate incident in high school when the brother of a classmate died of a heart attack. He was only 14, though supposedly he had heart problems that could have killed him much earlier. On the day that the Daily Advertiser published his obituary, his older sister was profiled as part of an honor-student series. The last line of the article stated that she had two brothers. Even then, I remember wondering if she would ever be able to read that article, knowing it ran at such a bad time. It's gotta hurt even worse for those who saw the picture of Cardelle Faulk's wide grin as he cradled a soccer ball and expressed excitement over his upcoming trip to Sydney. He was in the front pages once again after he died of a seizure on the basketball court that fall.

I'm not blaming print media for publishing what (at the time, at least) was seen as accurate information. Though honestly, maybe a little more discretion and a little less speed could have salvaged the situation. But the false information parroted by International Coal easily ranks among the most thoughtless bile ever to cover an ass. What the hell were they thinking in announcing they were alive without knowing for sure? I suppose I now understand the thinking behind the alleged corner-cutting of the mine shaft construction in the first place.

Incorrect information leads to terrible situations down the road--not that anyone should have to be reminded about that in this day and age. Except maybe those in charge who would permit such unsafe workplaces, poor medical care and unjust wars. But then again, George Bush cops to not reading newspapers, so that might be a moot point altogether.

What good are timeliness and a high reputation if, to attain those things, you have to give a fatal ray of false hope to a city and the nation? Something else apparently died in the mine that day: tact.

19 comments:

Flamingo Jones said...

The handling of the situation was inexcusable. Even putting the best construction on it (miscommunication, whatever), the CEO admits that he knew after 20 minutes of celebration that the information was inaccurate. Yet he let it go on for 3 hours. That's the height of cruelty...pouring salt on the inevitable wounds.

ccgirl said...

Very thoughtful and insightful commentary Ian.

Phillip said...

i think that, as far as the corporate media world is concerned, timeliness and a high reputation (and therefore revenue) are in and of themselves the desired result. sensationalism trumps factual reporting, not only because it's more sexy but also because "facts" have become so malleable in our culture, and we forgive and/or forget inaccuraties in "news" so easily

Flamingo Jones said...

This seems like a much more tragic repeat of Election Night 2000.

Nick said...

I love how on the left this tragedy is already being used to try and blame Bush for something else. The ink and/or correction tape on the papers has yet to dry and liberals are trying to tie this to Bush. The president can't oversee every aspect of gov't, workplace, economy, life, weather predictions, etc, nor do I want him to.

If public schools, management of post-Saddam Iraq, immigration procedures, welfare, and FEMA are any indication, I don't want government anywhere near the workplace. Should the mining company be held liable? Sure, take them out of business, sue them for everything they own if the reports of serious safety violations are true. But mind you, mining is already known as a dangerous profession, and no amount of government intrusion could change that. Like I said, just look at the above examples, and one could conclude that more government would probably mean more caos. To try and blame Bush for this is discraceful and downright dumb.

Also, there are many on the right also trying to put this on the Clinton Administration for not doing anything about mining regulations. And I've told them the same thing.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick,

The main point of my post is that the corporation was irresponsible in its reports. The CEO has gone on record admitting this. The issue here is the deadly combination of cut corners, corporate hubris and the media's compulsion to print happy news before it can be confirmed. All of those things put together equal disaster.

As far as tying this to the Bush administration, I do so because the incident is indicative of the practices we now see in government. Trendy people would call it a "trend." First, a collapse of infrastructure that may or may have been a victim of miserliness. Then, the incompetence in response followed by conflicting reports. And finally, questionable media coverage. It's a pattern! So yeah, I'd say it's an appropriate association.

You speak of government incompetence, Nick. Yes, it's the government YOU elected that is sinking to new lows daily and unable to offer help where necessary, while simultaneously curtailing the rights of these families to seek legal redress where appropriate. I'm frankly surprised that you would hold such a low view of federal government these days, as jusitifed as it is.

Nick said...

Why would you be surprised that I hold a low view of the federal government? I've never been one to like government to be involved in business and private matters b/c gov't is always more incompetent.

And yes, I did vote for Bush. I didn't see anything better on the Democrat ticket, people who were just as hypocritical and incompetent. Maybe if yall would have put Wes Clark on the ticket I would have voted with yall. However, Kerry and Edwards just wasn't going to do it for me. Also, appointing Howard Dean doesn't help.

Oh, and things such as welfare reform (lack thereof), public schools, and immigration that I listed, those are bi-partisan f-ups. Yall don't have any better answers.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, nothing can convince me that you would have voted for Wesley Clark. As I recall, you had some not-so-nice things to say about him in your column:

"What's all this fuss about Wesley Clark? The guy still can't decide whether or not he would have thought about the possibility of considering to vote maybe in the Iraq War resolution." (10/22/03)

"Or has [Arnold Schwarzenegger] traded his own convictions for power, just like newly born liberal and Democrat, Wesley Clark?" (10/8/03)

You also overlooked him as a Democratic contender in your 8/20/03 column, "Assessment of Donkey," though (in your defense) he wasn't a big name yet at that point. Still, I'm not convinced of your assertion.

About the fedgov: your position on Big Government is not that different than most other conservatives, at least in theory. So tell me this: how can you justify supporting Bush, when he has created the largest government bureaucracy in history, while lambasting Clinton (who considerably trimmed the government payroll)?

And finally, the Democrats did have a message in 2004; it was just obscured by the GOP/media kerfluffle over "flip-flopping!" Unfortunately, Kerry's platform could not be distilled into convenient catchphrases. But anyone who read it came away convinced (and I should know, because I showed it to several people who didn't know it existed, and took them off the fence). Incidentally, you can't accuse the Democrats of both having the wrong message and having no message.

Phillip said...

so nick, it's okay for the bush/regime to fuck thigs up (public schools, management of post-Saddam Iraq, immigration procedures, welfare, FEMA, everything) and then stand back and say "look! big government doesn't work"?

if you don't like them interfering in the workplace how do you like them tapping your phones? you probably don't mind at all.

yes the mining company should be reprimanded. but you can't be surprised that this happens when the government places zero to little restraints on corporations in regard to worker safety. without government regulation we wouldn't have worker's rights, OSHA, the EPA, the FDA... do you honestly believe companies should just be trusted to go by the honor system to not endanger their workers lives, pollute the environment, or produce dangerous products when those things cost them money?

Neil Shakespeare said...

The year after my mother died I was driving through a town on Mother's Day and all of the signs read "HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!" and I thought, 'How could they be so cruel?' Now every Mother's Day I think of all those who have lost their mothers the year before going through the same thing. Nobody's to blame, of course, but that was one wierd, wierd feeling seeing all those signs.

Nick said...

Icon:

Yes, in my column which was in the very early stages of the Dem. primary, I did not give Clark much credit. However, since that column, it became more obvious that Bush wasn't exactly the most competent person for the job, and Clark had a few good ideas. Your side didn't give Clark much credit either, or much of a forum, which is probably why I haven't come to appreciate him until he took a job at Fox News. Now he has a forum. I was wrong about him in my initial assessment; I'm not afraid to admit that. Also, I've stated plenty of times that I'm not happy with Bush running up our deficit, not cutting spending, and expanding the federal government.

Phizz:

If you would actually read comments I put here or in on my site, you would see that I'm not at all happy with Bush for Katrina, post-Saddam Iraq, illegal immigration, etc. Also, regulations against business are no different today than they were under Clinton's Administration. Yes, safety violations should be severely punished, especially when they occur in already dangerous jobs such as mining, king crab fishing, and offshore work. However, you can't expect the government to be there all the time. Isn't that what workers unions are for? The unions always claim to be out for the best interest of their members. Therefore, they should be all over these safety violations the first time they occur, except for one problem, the unions, like politicians, don't give a shit about helping average citizens unless it benefits their wallets or cause.

Nick said...

Another thing Phizz, the Feds. aren't tapping into my phone conversations anymore than they have been in the last 20-30 years. The NSA has always done that. However, that's computers looking for certain words, like "bomb" "president" in the same sentence. President Bush said that they are only listening to conversations from forgein suspects. If they are listening to conversations from 2 random American citizens, then I hope we find out and bring them to jail.

Ian McGibboney said...

Neil: I have similar feelings when I find out that yet another person I know is doing very well. People like to relay good news, but a lot of times (especially lately) I don't want to hear it. I feel horrible about that, but it does make me feel worse. Is it their fault? Of course not. Everyone has different triggers. I have to remind myself of that sometimes.

Nick: I know you're no GOP fanboy. But I don't find your criticism of Bush even a fraction as prevalent as your contempt for Ray Nagin, Kathleen Blanco or Ted Kennedy. Not to mention that your estimation over the power of unions is absurd, given the evisceration that they've suffered since the Reagan era. And the Bush administration is doing everything in its power to end those sorts of checks altogether. And they're winning, because apparently people don't mind replacing one group of perceived "crooks" with far-worse, actual crooks.

And how do you know that the feds aren't wiretapping your phone? It's not like they tell you! The issue arises because Bush has sought to circumvent wiretapping rules that are there for good reason (and aren't all that restrictive, honestly). The fact that Bush wants this power is evidence enough that he has ulterior motives for it. What are they? I don't pretend to know. But based on past incidents where Bush-era federal agents have targeted completely innocent American citizens on dubious charges, I don't want the White House to have that power. Even in theory. Give an inch, take the whole equator.

Nick said...

Icon:

My contempt for Ray Nagin falls on the fact that he claims to be a fighter for "his people." As I've shouted plenty of times, he found a way to efficiently bus people out of the projects to vote for him, Blanco, and Kerry, yet, he could not find a way to bus them out of Katrina's path. Enought said.

As I told Phizz, if Bush is listening to my phone conversations, then he should be convicted, because there's no reason to listen to me on the phone. However, how do you know that he is? You Libs already want to paint the fact that he's listening to every single one of our conversation, and I have a feeling that he has better things to do, such as get the Iraq War and Illegal Immigration problem under control before people like myself tell him to fuck off and vote 3rd party, even if that means a Hillary preisdency.

I'm drunk right now. So, any grammatical errors should be understood. Working in north Mississippi pisses me off. There's nothing for me to do up here but run 80 miles/week and drink beer.

Ian McGibboney said...

I don't even like the possibility that feds might be tapping into our phones. Keep in mind that Bush sought to permit this for ANY REASON OR NO REASON, and that should scare anyone on principle alone. Never dismiss it by saying, "Well, I have nothing to hide." It isn't up to you to determine what they're looking for. I sure as hell don't trust them, because they are far too blanket in what they perceive as a threat. Case in point: me. The Secret Service has interrogated my friends about me, for no other reasons aside from that I have views that differ from those of the Bush administration. Whatever happened to privacy? And free speech?

You shouldn't beat yourself up for being drunk, especially in Mississippi. I must say, you spell quite well while inebriated.

Nick said...

If the Secret Service really interrorgated your friends because of your views of the president, then that's dumb, and they should be taken to court.

Like I said before, no one is listening to phone conversations of 2 random American citizens. If they are, they should be brought to jail. However, the NSA since the Cold War has always had computers monitor every phone line for certain combinations of words. Watch Enemy of the State or read about the NSA.

Flamingo Jones said...

My concern, Nick, is where do they draw the line? If it's all secretive and they can basically do whatever the hell they want with no checks, how do YOU KNOW that they're not overstepping their bounds?

In an administration that believes "if you're not for us, you're with the enemy," there can be a very broad and frightening scope applied to the words "terrorist activities."

This administration has lied so many times we can't keep track, so forgive me if I don't feel all warm and fuzzy when Dick Cheney assures me that they're on the up and up.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, what happened might be dumb, but it's happening. I'm nobody other than some white-boy American citizen who wrote some editorials. I'll bet I'm on the perimeter of what they care about, which should frighten anyone further within the spy radius. But more than that, it's simply misguided. I am no threat to anyone, except maybe philosophically :)

Like Flamingo said, keep in mind that this is an administration who will issue blanket-alerts for possible and non-specific terrorist threats. That's more open-ended than a Vegas hooker in the express lane.

So Watch What You Say! (copyright 2001 Ari Fleischer)

Laurie said...

Hi. I know I'm a bit late on this, and almost completely unrelated to the rest of your comments on this post, but I just wanted to thank you. You are the only proof I have, at least through the internet, that someone else knew Cardelle Faulk, and knew that he died, and what a tragedy that was. I was at LHS my freshman and sophomore year, the former of which was the year Cardelle died. I am working on a piece about the dead I've known, and Cardelle was a major figure in my life, in that regard, because I'd known him for a long time, and because it was such a tragedy. Other than your blog, the only other mention of Cardelle is through a McDonald's press release about his winning the trip (earning it, really) to Sydney. So thank you for verifying my memory, and making me feel just a little less alone in that. You'd think the Daily Advertiser would have something in the archive, but it only goes back to 2001.

Anyway, thank you again.