Reporters from CNN , CBS , USA Today, the New York Daily News and The Charleston Gazette will examine media coverage of the Sago Mine disaster that killed 12 miners and resulted in one of the most controversial media accounts of the 21st century at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13, in the Mountainlair Ballrooms.
Searching for a Miracle: Media Coverage of the Sago Mine Disasteris being coordinated by the WVU Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism in coordination with the University’s Festival of Ideas lecture series.
Panelists will discuss the challenges faced by journalists covering the story, the lessons they learned and the role that 24-hour news coverage may have played in one of the biggest media faux paus of the century. Participants will include CNN ’s Randi Kaye, CBS ‘Sharyn Alfonsi and Mike Solmsen, USA Today’s Mark Memmott, The Charleston Gazette’s Scott Finn and the New York Daily News’Derek Rose.
Kelly McBride, the Poynter Institute’s ethics faculty member, will moderate the panel, which will be covered in its entirety by C-SPAN cable network for later airing.
The Sago Mine Disaster was a tragedy that hit close to home for us at West Virginia University because of our close proximity to the disaster. As journalism educators, it also provided us with a unique opportunity to teach our students about the challenges of covering crises in a 24-hour news cycle,said interim Dean Maryanne Reed.We are proud to host this debate and feel it is our responsibility to help lead this national discussion.
On Jan. 2, an explosion in the Sago Mine in Tallmansville, W.Va., trapped 13 miners and began a two-day rescue mission to find and save them. Newspapers, radio and television reported just before midnight on Jan. 3 that 12 of the 13 miners had survived. National news broadcasters documented the families’euphoria. Newspaper headlines throughout the country sang out in large black letters on their front pages the next morning that all 12 miners had survived.
In the end, only one on the trapped miners, 26-year-old Randal McCloy Jr., lived, and the Sago explosion became the worst mining disaster in the United States since a 2001 explosion in Alabama killed 13 and the worst in West Virginia since the 1968 Farmington Mine disaster in Marion County took 78 lives.
But for three hours, family members, the media and the country believed there had been another miracle in the mines, much like the July 2002 rescue of nine miners from the flooded Quecreek Mine in Somerset County , Pa.
When the news of the miners’deaths came at 3 a.m., family members were shocked and angered, and a nation questioned why they were told the miners were alive. Some newspapers and radio and television stations apologized, while others said they reported what they were told.
WVU ’s Festival series gets under way at 7:30 p.m. tonight, Feb. 3, withAn Evening with Homer Hickam,a West Virginia native and the author ofRocket Boys,and continues Tuesday, Feb. 7, with award-winning author James McBride talking about his memoir,The Color Of Water,followed by the Sago panel Feb. 13.
For a complete rundown on other Festival of Ideas lectures, visithttp://www.events.wvu.edu/foi/2006/index.shtml
The presentations, produced by WVU Arts and Entertainment, are free and open to the public.