Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Darkest Hour

The mistaken headlines about the trapped West Virginia coal miners have given journalism another black eye. This fiasco reminds us that no matter how dramatic the news, we need to check, and double check, our sourcing before we announce something is fact. If we're not positive, let's say so. In its early editions, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette joined many of its brethren in running the initially false news that 12 miners had survived the blast, but it quickly corrected the mistake in latter editions and on its Web site. The Post-Gazette has treated the tragedy as a hometown story, and its reporters have done an impressive job of covering all facets of the unfolding events. An example is "Sago Mine Safety Record Not Spotless, but New Owners Showed Improvement" by Dan Fitzpatrick and Michael A. Fuoco. Fitzpatrick and Fuoco reveal that within the last half year, inspectors had raised concerns about combustible material in the mine four times and cited the mine 208 times last year for health and safety violations.


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