|At the press conference concerning the Cradall Canyon Mine on Friday night about 150 people stood around recording every word the officials from the mine and MSHA said. This photo shows only about half of the television cameras that were focused on the event and proceedings.|
It is inevitable in these days of the internet and huge television coverage that something as serious as six miners being trapped in a mine could become world wide news.
And is should be.
To often the news is filled with silly things like which movie star is seen with an athlete or who's taking who's husband away in Hollywood.
The media cares about that stuff, and maybe a few diehard fans, but outside of Los Angeles and New York, few of us find that very important.
Yet when we get something serious enough to be covered by not only all the upstate newspapers and television but NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox News, NPR and every other news outlet in the country and even the world, we see what it is like to be in the lime light. And sometimes it isn't pretty.
As I stood at one of the press conferences in Huntington Canyon, I looked around at the nearly 150 people standing there behind the cameras focused on the men you see on television. I counted 19 television cameras standing at the back of the group. On the ground right in front of the microphones were radio people trying to get sound bites. I counted 15 people there. Around the edges I saw correspondents that I had only ever saw on national television. There were also a lot of the upstate ones as well.
Around me were a dozen photographers, many with a camera (or two in some cases) that made mine look like a tinder toy, all vying for the same space to shots of charts, people speaking and other things. On one side were a half dozen young correspondents quickly taking down notes. Around the outside were support people, people from the Salvation Army who were there to support the crowd and even some bystanders that parked along the street to see what was going on.
The street was lined with television trucks, motor homes, officials vehicles. A little town about a half a block long had grown up with tables and chairs and porta pottys on the end.
Some from here who have been there called it a zoo. Some called it a circus. I mostly just saw it as people from all over the country and the world trying to do their job.
However, how some of them do their job is annoying. They shove microphones in anyone's face who will make a comment, whether that person really knows anything or not. When some of them found out I was local they even tried to interview me; a person who has only been in a coal mine once, a hard rock mine once and never wants to go back in again. I told them if you want to know about the area, want to know how coal mining affects all of us here, or if you want to talk about the goodness of the people in Castle Country I'd be happy to do an interview.
None of them were interested in that. Those that approached me ran off to find someone else to talk to.
The world has changed a lot since the Wilberg disaster. In those days upstate a state media came down and a few television guys; but in todays heightened media market everything gets scrutiny.
Not long ago, when another accident happened in a mine in Pennsylvania, I heard one television announcer say "Why are they mining coal anyway? Who needs it?"
Just as many people know little about where their food comes from or how it is grown (or even that it is grown), few think about where the power comes from to produce the light that illuminates the dark in a room. The majority of it comes from the labors of men who work in conditions most of us couldn't stand. And yet they do it day after day, night after night to keep the power on.
It seems that we as a nation don't pay much attention to things until a tragedy comes along. It's a sad tale, but one the national and world wide news services adore.
Soon, in one way or another, this will end for those who came here to cover it. All that will remain are relieved families or grieving families. The large news media is like a predator, moving from one meal provider to another. Already the news of the six men is not on the top of the news chain anymore. Their fate, still unknown, has faded behind the resignation of Carl Rove and the war in Iraq. News producers want fast moving stories that can provide excitement and suspense; this whole thing of rescue is taking too long for their rabid appetites.
I don't blame anyone for this; it is the nature of the beast.
But for those of us who live here, this is not a fleeting story; it is one with a legacy we will live with for years, regardless of the outcome. The other disasters in our past guarantee it with names like Wilberg, Willow Creek, Castle Gate and Winter Quarters.
Coal mining communities have long memories and they don't need the media to remind them of dark days, once lived.