The Washington Post, like many papers and news organizations, briefly reported today that the trapped West Virginia miners were found alive. Thankfully its dead tree edition in the District was a bit more circumspect, reporting the earlier news that one miner’s body had been discovered and the others’ fate was unknown. [Note: Evidently the "District Home Edition" is circumspect; "District Final" is not--it says they were found alive.] USA Today was not so smart: Their front page proclaims the miners are alive. Think “Dewey Defeats Truman” but not funny.
While disappointing, this hardly seems the “disturbing and disgraceful” media incident that Editor & Publisher’s Greg Mitchell is calling it today. The media wasn’t going off a single anonymous source or making things up out of thin air–and it wasn’t telling the families incorrectly that their relatives were alive. Wherever the incorrect information originally came from, the family members told the media about it.
The blame today still lies where it began: squarely on the heads of the mining company, that first allowed such an accident to happen, then failed for THREE HOURS to correct the information on the status of the miners.
> You can see what papers get it right (and wrong) at the Newseum. You can watch the newspaper deadlines move across the country turning the story from circumspect (Washington Post) to joyous (Rocky Mountain News) to tragic (Sacremento Bee). Oddly, the Los Angeles Times messed up, even with its later deadlines.