WaPo's Kurtz Spins Mine Disaster

Howard Kurtz's "Media Notes" in The Washington Post, which is supposed to be a critique of media reporting, is very often closer to a whitewash. Today's Kurtz column is an example of just that.

After dissecting, and mostly defending, the "they're alive, they're dead" reporting calamity, Kurtz criticizes what he sees as media disinterest in on-the-job health and safety reporting:

The larger issue is that much of the press has abandoned reporting on health and safety regulation until disaster strikes. How many reporters have dug into the Labor Department's Mine Safety and Health Administration, which under the Bush administration was run by a former Utah mine manager until last year?

..... "I have tried to get the general press interested," says Ellen Smith, owner of the trade publication Mine Safety and Health News. "I just kind of gave up."

Then Kurtz, after noting scant coverage of mine safety during the past 5 years, fails to do exactly what Mainstream Media outlets failed to do all last week -- tell their readers, listeners, and viewers what the coal mine statistical safety record has actually been during the Bush Administration. So add Kurtz's name to the non-diggers, and add Ms. Smith, who as a trade publication owner should know the truth, to the list of willful dissemblers.

As noted in NewsBusters and BizzyBlog posts last week, coal mine fatalities have fallen from 42 in 2001 to 22 in 2005, an alltime low (graph is here). Further investigation after the NewsBusters post indicates that mining deaths per labor hour are down 40%. "Digging into" this information would have required Kurtz all the time it takes to Google "Mine Safety and Health Administration" (MSHA) and two clicks of his mouse, one to MSHA's home page from the Google list, and a second on "FatalGrams/Reports" near the bottom left of the home page. Once at that page, the very first detail area shows links to coal mine fatality reports for 1995 through 2006 (it took way longer to type this than it did to just do it!).

And as to who is running the MSHA, why is it apparently scandalous news to Kurtz and the rest of the Mainstream Media that someone who knows the industry is running it, especially if, as is evident (despite the horrible 12-fatality tragedy last week, which will under rules already in place be thoroughly investigated), mine safety has improved? Maybe there hasn't been much news on mine safety because the news until last week had been good -- and good news during the Bush Administration isn't particularly welcome.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com

NOTE: A second section of this post about Kurtz's conversation with a Charleston Gazette Reporter has been removed. Please go here for the formal retraction.
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Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.