In a note to readers on January 4th USA Today explained its errroneous report that 12 of 13 miners survived.
"This documentation proved inadequate and fell short of USA TODAY's professional standards. When USA TODAY learned that only one miner had survived, the story was immediately corrected at usatoday.com and in the newspaper's final edition. USA TODAY regrets the errors. "
I used to make fun of USA Today and call it the McPaper. It seems the NY Times and Washington Post are also McPapers. Unlike USA Today they did not 'fess up about their role in the disgraceful reporting of the mine disaster.
They are not alone. Editors and reporters around the country are acting like the people they cover. According to Editor and Publisher they won't return phone calls when they are asked to explain what they reported and why they reported it.
The explanations that have emerged have been astonishingly craven. The Associated Press used the families as an excuse. (Newsflash to the news media. Relatives miles from the scene are not a source). Other organizations blamed the Governor, some blamed the mining company. Few were willing to admit that they had no credible source and had no business making claims of any kind.
I am a bit obsessed with this story about the news business. It confirms what I have long feared about the corporate media. Their loyalty to the corporate structure has rendered them useless in news gathering. They turned a local news story into a national news story and at the moment when there was an opportunity for real reporting they didn't know jack.
It is significant that most reporters were at church with the families instead of the places where they could really get information. They were interested in showing weeping relatives or in the case of Geraldo showing themselves weeping. Getting at the truth was of no importance.
The corporate media are thoroughly corrupt. The word corruption may not seem to describe the current sorry state of affairs but it does. Reporters in West Virginia were not taking bribes, but they put ratings and readership numbers ahead of getting at the truth. They create false interest in stories that either aren't news at all or that are of concern to small numbers of people. They do it to make money and they do it because their desire to please the powerful prevents them from telling us anything important.
The consequences for our society are grave. What happens when talk of impeaching Bush turns to action? What will the Bushmen do to stay in power? They will announce terror alerts, which have been non-existent since last November, and then they will start a war. The media will be embedded and the American bubble will get thicker and thicker at the very moment we will need to know the truth.
Happy New Year.