01/04/06 — Miners found, lost: Care must be taken when handling information

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Miners found, lost: Care must be taken when handling information

There could nothing more horrifying than hearing what you thought was good news about loved ones trapped in a mine, only to find out a couple hours later that your father, brother, uncle or son lost his life there instead.

The miscommunication regarding the West Virginia mine accident was probably simply innocent exuberance at what, at the time, seemed like the answer to a prayer.

But in communicating too quickly, and with too much eagerness to get the story to the press first, the coal company and the West Virginia governor’s office actually caused intense heartbreak and anger for the families who so wanted to believe the first reports.

When the news came that there was some doubt, officials waited — then — to confirm who had lived and who had died, while the families continued to celebrate the good news.

Information can be a dangerous tool when it is handled without restraint and caution. Double-checking would have taken a couple extra minutes, but could have saved much torment for already grief-stricken families.

Hindsight is 20/20, but, hopefully, the West Virginia incident will make us all think twice about how we handle news — and how its dissemination affects lives.

Published in Editorials on January 4, 2006 11:02 AM