Sunday, 21 November 2010

Pike River

Am I the only person finding the media coverage of the Pike River Mine disaster at best woefully inadequate, at worst pretty revolting?

Obviously, it's a terrible situation, and it needs to be reported, but the style of the coverage has been tabloid, prying into the private suffering and grief of the community. It's a sign of how relentlessly subjective the news media has become, when a disaster like this immediately becomes and excuse to present the rest of the population with images of grief and mental agony.

Several things have struck me as deeply off putting. Within hours of the initial explosion the NZ Herald had put up a (presumably old) NZPA story titled "NZ's worst mining accidents: Gas, explosions kill dozens," which seems a bit ghoulish and likely to cause confusion and distress - my initial reaction when I googled up the stroy was 'Fuck, they're all dead.' It took a few seconds for me to realise it was a catalogue of previous mining disasters. The shock and distress that someone more initmately connected with the missing miners would have experienced in those seconds can't really be imagined. It's a tasteless attempt to max out the drama and fill their ewebsite with 'relevant' content. never mind how tastless, stupid or repugnant.

(The NZ Herald has changed the headline slightly since then, dropping the reference to deaths - but the headline in its original form has been preserved on other sites mirroring or linking to the story (1).)

Oh, and Prince William sends his sympathies. As if anyone gave a fuck. Though obviously, it must be a tabloid wet dream to link the currently very news worthy Prince William with this crisis. You can almost imagine a news editor licking his or her lips when they heard about that. Royalty and a disaster - it's Google Search news - two hot search terms coming together in a blissful union.

Conversely, in other ways the media has offended me by its pussyfooting around the likely fate of the miners. They have continually refered to the miners as 'trapped' and after the resuce efforts were aborted on Saturday night due to the persistance of gas levels in the mine, we were told that the 'trapped' miners 'faced a second night underground.' The implication being, throughout the media coverage, that the miners are alive - a possibility, but an increasingly remote one.

Obviously, the media are gearing their coverage for another Chilean miracle. But it isn't the media's job to be continually optimistic in the face of disaster, or to construct a narrative, just to report. The fact is that there has been a substantial explosion underground, and only 2 miners have made it out. It is likely the air in the mine is poisonous, and it is unlikely that anyone can have survived down there for 48 hours.

As I understand it, the self saver devices they have would only have provided them with half an hour or so's respite, yet TVNZ reporter Jack Tame treated us to a pathetic demonstration of how the kits work, broadcast 24 hours after the initial explosion. What other resources may be available to them, I do not know, but the media has certainly not enlightened me. Instead, there's have too much prying into the private grief and anguish of the community.
1 - "NZ's worst mining accidents: Gas, explosions kill dozens - New Zealand Herald." This provides a link back tot he Herlad story, with the new version of the title. It looks like the article was actually written some time before. It's originally a NZPA piece. (

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