Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


The story of the miners in West Virginia the last couple days is true tragedy. In classic tragedy, a story usually involves someone's downfall, whether through human shortcomings, through fate, or through the meddling of the gods.

This story of the 13 miners casts the family members as those who suffer due to forces beyond their control. To go from the depths of despair as they waited word from the rescue teams, to the heights of joy as word spread that 12 were alive, and then the crushing news that no, all but one were dead, it seems like these families were the undeserving playthings of malicious gods.

The media can't be blamed for reporting the news that 12 had been found alive, they were simply reporting what was on the scene. It was an honestly made mistake. What they can be blamed for, however, is not doing a better job of getting strong confirmation.

For hours they were little more than participants in the joyous crowd, simply bouncing up and down and saying "They're alive! I heard it from someone over there!".

In recent days there has been some debate on the role of the MSM versus the role of bloggers. There was Bill Roggio's imbroglio with the Washington Post.

And on Monday, there was this article in the New York Times looking at the differences in how the MSM and bloggers operate.

The article highlights what the MSM often claims about itself, that they serve as filters, allowing through only what is solid and verified news.

Reporters say that these developments are forcing them to change how they do their jobs; some are asking themselves if they can justify how they are filtering information. "We've got to be more transparent about the news-gathering process," said Craig Crawford, a columnist for Congressional Quarterly and author of "Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn You Against the Media." "We've pretended to be like priests turning water to wine, like it's a secret process. Those days are gone."

The MSM claims its superiority over the blogs lies in the alleged way blogs just dump anything and everything onto the Web without undergoing ritualistic purification, like some fisherman heaving buckets of fish guts over the side of a boat, whereas the MSM has layers of fact checkers and editors, to ensure errors are not made. If the MSM wants to claim the responsibility of being the guardians of truth, then they ought to perform the function even, or especially, when it is hardest to do so.

The story in West Virginia is a hard case, no doubt. With the jubilation and news flying that 12 miners had been found alive, it takes enormous discipline to slow down and not rush the story, especially when other outlets are pushing the news.

This is especially hard in television, where television news outlets are slaves to emotional outburts. It is their bread and butter. And so, with that scene last night, the vaunted MSM sprinted to their cameras, doing just what they accuse the lowly bloggers of doing. The weepier the interview, the better. No emotion is too raw to dump onto the TV screen.

So, in the end, are we better served by the MSM? I see no grand advantage to allowing them to remain as the sole gatekeepers of what is tried and true fact.

Michelle Malkin, as usual, has a good roundup.

Watchman's Words shares some personal thoughts.


  • At Wed Jan 04, 01:16:00 PM, Robert said…

    Besides highlighting the (continuing) failures of the media, the story presents an interesting look at human nature. When it looked hopeless, we thought the men were all dead. At that point, if the news had come that one man was still clinging to life, it would have been joyous news indeed. But when compared against the false report that 12 had survived, one life looks frail.

    I remember watching my mom worry every time a mine accident was reported (her dad and four brothers were all West Virginia coal miners). Thankfully, all of my cousins have gone into other lines of work. Truly that is a hard and dangerous way to make a living. God bless those grieving families, especially given the false hopes that were so cruelly dashed for them.

  • At Wed Jan 04, 02:51:00 PM, Jeff said…

    Indeed, a lot of hard work goes into that way of making a living. And hard for a lot of us to relate to the real danger that comes with it. In my office, danger might be a paper cut. We can pray those families find a way through this time.


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