In the wake of the tragedy in West Virginia, I’d love to see the press take a step back and try to examine how hearsay gets transformed into fact. (Sounds like a good assignment for Judy Miller.)
Looking through the front pages on Newseum, I’m struck with how often the exact same photograph is used to convey opposite meanings. With a simple change of headline, relief turns into frustration and tears of joy become tears of grief.
Also, I can’t let the Boston Herald’s awful (and in retrospect, horribly inappropriate) headline go without comment. Now that we know the twelve miners were killed, does this mean America’s prayers weren’t answered? Just like gambling addicts remember their big wins but not their losses, the fate of the twelve miners has transformed from a faith-inspiring act of God to another horrible tragedy in which it’s impolite to mention religion at all. Cute little sayings like “the Lord works in mysterious ways” are cop-outs for the logical conclusions that many of us draw from experiences like this. If something fantastic and improbable can be used as proof that there’s a benevolent god, doesn’t the reverse point toward the conclusion that a higher power is indifferent at best? If you believe in a god that could have saved these men’s lives (which I don’t, btw), why didn’t he? People are quick to throw around the word “miracle” when something wonderful happens, so what the hell do we call this?