Saturday, January 07, 2006

Mine disaster - interesting site

This blog, Chuck Holton's Live Fire Ministries, has some interesting insight as to what went on at Sago.

If you want a different, perhaps more complete context on mine safety, check out this post.

(I will vouch for it to this extent -- having worked in Ohio, we had to deal with some mining stories, and from what I remember much of what he says here about how safey violations come about has a ring of truth to it. To Holton's credit, however, he does link to the Washington Post story that details some of the vilolations that appear to go well beyond paperwork problems.)

Holton apparently was there when the craziness broke loose.

And he has some interesting thoughts about what might have been done in this new-media world to keep the old media from having egg on its face.

Aside from the fiasco with a mine foreman breaking protocol to spread information that turned out to be false (the guy will have to live with the knowledge of the pain that his actions caused for the rest of his life). Much of this trouble could have been avoided if the incident commander had applied some modern tools to the dissemination of information at the site.

For instance, how hard would it have been for there to be a person in the control room blogging updates to a website - so that all the news services could have the information as it became available, straight from the horses’ mouth? Would that not have made it easier to keep a lid on the rampant rumors that ended up causing so much heartache?

Or how hard would it have been to set up an LED sign on the command truck, with scrolling news updates on it for all to see? As it was, the media, in a virtual information vacuum, was forced to accost poor people like this woman, who could do nothing but sob when they shoved the lights and cameras at her. At that point, all she wanted to do was get to her car - but she had to traverse the gauntlet of reporters to get there. Unfortunately in a situation like that, as soon as one video light goes on somebody, everyone assumes something important is being said and rushes to get in on it. In this case, it resulted in the poor woman being penned in a thicket of reporters like a scientific specimen on grief. I couldn’t stand it, and tried to help the poor woman navigate through the throng.

Be careful, though, trying to pin the blame for this fiasco on the media. There is a difference between spreading a rumor and reporting that a rumor is spreading. Don’t think so? Try to imagine a scenario where live cameras pointing at the church could have avoided showing the jubilation that erupted there when the despicable rumor began that the twelve were alive. To their credit, the live news people, like CNN, simply reported that they were being told that there were survivors, and continued to report when the Governor gave the rumor an implied - if inadvertent - endorsement with his comment that “miracles do happen.”

Interesting perspective and thoughts. Worth reading in full.

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