C-SPAN will broadcastSearching for a Miracle: Media Coverage of the Sago Mine DisasterFestival of Ideas panel coordinated by the West Virginia University Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism Saturday, Feb. 18, at 9 p.m. and midnight.
C-SPAN taped the panel for broadcast. Viewers who missed the live panel discussion Feb. 13 can tune in to reporters from CNN , CBS , USA Today, the New York Daily News and the Charleston Gazette and listen to their examination of media coverage of the Sago Mine disaster that killed 12 miners. The panel was part of WVU ’s prestigious Festival of Ideas lecture series.
Reporters and media experts discussed 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 most controversial media accounts of the century.
Panelists included 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, moderated the panel.
The Sago Mine disaster was a tragedy that hit close to home for us at WVU 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 honored that C-SPAN taped this panel and will broadcast it nationally.
On Jan. 2, an explosion in the Sago Mine in Tallmansville 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 proclaimed on their front pages the next morning that all 12 miners had survived.
In the end, only one miner, 27-year-old Randal McCloy Jr., lived, and the Sago explosion became the worst mining disaster in the U.S. 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.