On Sunday’s ‘Reliable Sources’: Defense of Coal Mine Rescue Continues

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By: E&P Staff

In the days since much of the media wrongly reported that a dozen trapped miners had been saved, many reporters and editors have defended their actions. This continued on Sunday’s “Reliable Sources” on CNN hosted by Howard Kurtz.

Earlier this week, in The Washington Post, Kurtz was one of few insiders who has strongly criticized the media performance–and also pointed out that reporters and editors are usually slow to accept blame.

On his Sunday show, Joe Johns, who covered the story for CNN, said flatly, “I can’t say there is much to apologize for.” Repeatedly he cited a member of Congress from West Virginia as a confirming source. E&P has revealed that this congresswoman, like the state’s governor, was only reacting to the celebration by families in the church that night and had no information of her own.

Another guest, David Kerley, an ABC correspondent, at first said his network had been “cautious” that night, then admitted that it had used as a prime source family members in the church “who had heard the news”–wrong news, delivered via cell phone by unknown sources. He blamed the coal company for the misinformation, adding, “I don’t want to let the company off the hook.”

Stu Bykofsky, columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, was more critical, but blamed his own paper’s wrong coverage on the Penn State football bowl game running late–meaning the paper had time to publish a front page proclaiming the mine miracle. He said newspapers in general were “trapped by deadlines,” and put most of the blame on cable news. “I don’t regard people running out of a church as good sources,” he said.

Jeff Jarvis, the Buzzmachine blogger, was most critical. Sounding the same note E&P struck earlier in the week, he compared the explanations he has heard to “Judy Miller blaming her sources” for the false Iraq WMD stories.

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