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A Night (And Morning) Of Misinformation

Perhaps not since "Dewey Defeats Truman" has the nation awoken to newspaper headlines so wrong. "Alive! Miners beat odds" screams the USA Today, reporting that twelve West Virginia miners trapped by an explosion had been rescued after 41 hours. Many other papers, including The New York Time, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times carried similar information. And it was the news many cable news watchers drifted off to sleep to as well, as happy family members told of their joy and relief.

We now know that news turned dramatically in the wee hours of the morning, after several hours of celebration, the families and the press learned that all but one of those miners were dead. What has followed this morning has been a lot of confusion, not to mention plenty of anger directed at officials in charge of the rescue operation and the media. Exactly how the misinformation got out and became so widely accepted is not yet clear. What is evident though is we're in for a day of examination. PE will get back to this story with more a little later, but we leave you with this opening shot at the press from Editor & Publisher's Greg Mitchell:

"In one of the most disturbing and disgraceful media performances of this type in recent years, television and newspapers carried the tragically wrong news late Tuesday and early Wednesday that 12 of 13 trapped coal miners in West Virginia had been found alive and safe. Hours later they had to reverse course, often blaming the mix-up on 'miscommunication.'"
What do you think?

Update: Click here for more from Public Eye on the media's coverage of the West Virginia mining tragedy. And click here for all of our Public Eye offerings.

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