Like others who watched all three overtimes of the Orange Bowl game, I switched back and forth last night between the final moments of the game, and the opening moments of what looked like a surprise rescue of twelve miners trapped in the Sago mine. It was three hours of gripping television, gripping because it felt throughout like we were watching a terrible car crash in very slow motion.
It was about forty five minutes into the drama when my wife turned to me and said, “Something’s fishy here. I’m nervous they’re getting too carried away with this. If they really knew the miners were safe, we would have gotten some official announcement by now.” If she thought it, surely Anderson Cooper and his producer(s) should have thought it. Stunning, at the time and especially now in retrospect, that he never used the words “unconfirmed reports” and that he didn’t try to introduce a wee bit of caution and uncertainty into his reports.
One can imagine Aaron Brown, or another seasoned anchor or reporter, maintaining a degree of skepticism and reminding us (and frankly, the families in the church) that we didn’t yet have all of the facts and that the story was still developing.
But no, Cooper kept pouring his own quirky brand of hyperbole onto the hypefest, while trying to his best to fit in with the locals (has he ever said “gosh” so much?). Geraldo Rivera was worse, unspeakably creepy, but we’ve come to expect that from him.
Jeff Jarvis writes today that we saw professional journalists grappling live with a breaking story “trying to find their ways (sic) through the fog of war” and that “next time I hear someone being haughty about professional news vs. citizen’s news, I’ll remind them of the West Virginia tragedy.”
That’s the wrong way to look at it. What we saw last night on the television was not professional journalism, at least not from the cable news networks. It was entertainment hypefest journalism, with an anchor on the scene not even doing basic j-school 101 reporting. If the citizens media is to work, let’s hold them to a higher standard than CooperRivera.
When we crawled into bed last night, we were saddened both by the turn of events, the horrible double tragedy for the miners’ families, and the sad reminder that the country is without a 24 hour news network that practices good, basic journalism.