After Official Disputes Data in Mine Safety Story, Knight Ridder Reconfirms Results

By: Joe Strupp

When a Federal official questioned the validity of a Jan. 9 Knight Ridder report showing a reduction in large fines for mine safety violations, the news organization conducted another analysis of the data and found the same results.

In a Thursday story out of the news chain’s Washington bureau, Knight Ridder revealed the results, noting that it took another look after a complaint from Mine Safety and Health Administration spokesman Dirk Fillpot, who said that Knight Ridder made “assumptions that were incorrect” in its Jan. 6 analysis.

Today’s story added that “when Knight Ridder conducted a new analysis in the manner suggested by Fillpot using MSHA’s newest database, it showed the same dramatic drop.”

The newest analysis revealed a 43% reduction in proposed “median major fines from the last five years of the Clinton administration when compared with the first five years of the Bush administration.” The story noted that “that’s the same percentage reduction found in Knight Ridder’s original analysis, using a smaller, online database of MSHA violations.”

Knight Ridder also reported that Fillpot refused Wednesday to answer 11 specific questions about the fines, its analysis, or the posting of its critique. Instead, he gave reporters a prepared statement that said “it is unfortunate that Knight Ridder’s analysis of MSHA’s penalties was inaccurate.”

Still, the news chain backed up its report, according to its story, by asking four statistical experts to review the databases and their analyses. The story said those experts found Knight Ridder’s review to be “accurate and that MSHA’s assessment didn’t contradict the newspaper’s findings of smaller fines during the Bush administration.”

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