What Networks Didn’t Mention About WV Mining Disaster

Andrew Tyndall noticed something about the nightly newscasts’ (ABC, CBS, NBC) coverage of the recent disaster at Upper Big Branch mine:

All that coverage—the tick-tock rescue, the stoic families, the Dickensian boss—was just as expected except for a single missing element. Not once, in all five days of coverage, did a single reporter mention the organization that has worked hardest over the decades to make sure that mining management does not cut safety corners and that miners can monitor their own working conditions with impunity. The union went unmentioned, as did the fact that the Upper Big Branch workforce went unorganized.

ABC’s [David] Kerley hinted at what was missing, describing how “many here were afraid to speak on camera, fearful they would jeopardize a loved one’s job.” NBC’s [Tom] Costello called the area “a company county‚Ķa lot of people here are reluctant to speak out against the employer.” I assume that such intimidation derives from the fact that Massey Energy workers have no union to protect them. Yet that is something I am obliged to assume, since neither Kerley nor Costello offered it as an explanation.

Tynndall continues:

So I mention the union-free coverage of the West Virginia disaster for only one reason….

Because it’s a (not inconsequential) fact of the Upper Big Branch story that the networks oddly left out or danced around?

…It is absolutely inconceivable that a news organization with a liberal ax to grind—a left-leaning bias—would have treated that fact that this mine was a non-union shop as unworthy of mention, if only in passing.

So the next time you hear conservative culture warriors dismissing the network nightly newscasts as just another tired example of the same old liberal media send them this link to disabuse them of that stereotype.

Maybe also “send the link” to anyone who still relies on the nightly news for all their information.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.