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Chilean mine rescue a wonder even the media couldn't mess up



chile-miner-rescue1.jpgIt is the kind of good news story a weary world has needed for a long while -- a triumphant tale of effective rescuers, brave miners, a sensitive government and grateful relatives all watching an amazing extrication of 33 men saved in Chile after two months trapped underground.

Still, the media coverage -- okay, mostly the TV coverage, especially on cable -- has often been distracting, especially in the early hours of the rescue, as commentators struggled to fill long gaps of time while an escape capsule bore each man through a 2,000-foot shaft up to a jubilant throng of relatives, reporters and government officials.

CNN's Larry King struck the most absurd tones during this time, as the cable news channel allowed him to preside over a panel early this morning featuring Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe and two other guests. Rowe, who echoed his excellent series' sensibility that working class heroes are too rarely appreciated, simply had too much space to fill, speculating about stuff among the rescued miners he couldn't possibly know.

Elsewhere, the language was similarly hyperbolic, as cable news anchors noted the historic nature of the rescue and the perseverance of the men in keeping good spirits and surviving long enough to be pulled from the ground like infants pulled into the world at birth. As amazing as the rescue has been, the critic in me couldn't help wondering about all the empty speculation and praise floating around, as outlets provided the kind of round-the-clock coverage usually reserved for elections and moon landings.

chile-mine-sepulveda.jpgThe Chilean government may deserve the best media marks of all, providing an amazing level of camera coverage allowing news outlets across the globe to tap in and see the rescue operation in great detail. Watching media-savvy miner Mario Sepulveda -- already a star thanks to videos he recorded underground -- lead the assembled crowd in a chant while shaking hands and giving out souvenir rocks, you felt this was a moment almost too perfect for the world's cameras.

Indeed, King mused at one point about possible book deals for some miners, especially whoever was the last guy out. I wondered why someone didn't point out to Uncle Larry that perhaps the last thing on the mind of the last guy waiting to leave a collapsed mine he's lived in for 69 days is what the title of his book on it all will be.

Some news outlets have reported on the impact of all the press at the rescue site. This Agence France-Presse report claims that the advancing media rushing to interview the first miner rescued, scared the man's family and trampled the makeshift camp they had setup to keep their vigil.

Even today, watching CNN anchors debate the fate of the 21st miner rescued, Yonny Barrios, who famously had a wife and mistress worrying for his return, felt odd. The newschannel's anchors reported he embraced a woman upon being pulled from the mine this afternoon, musing on whether it was his wife, who had previously said she wouldn't attend because Barrios also invited his mistress.

According to a report eventually published on the Huffington Post, the woman was Susana Valenzuela, his mistress. I'm not sure how that helps me understand the magnitude of the rescue effort or the welcome end of this emergency, but I'm sure another cable anchor will let me know why very soon. See below for a live stream of the rescue effort.

[Last modified: Thursday, October 14, 2010 9:20am]


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