West Virginia Cave-in: No Comms is better than Bad Comms

When I listened to the news this morning, I thought it was typical of BBC Radio 1 “News for Children” to get a story wrong when they stated that all the miners in the West Virginia Cave-in were dead, when the previous night’s news had said they were all OK. Unfortunately, Radio 1 was right. All but one of the miners was dead, and that one in critical condition.

I can’t imagine a worse scenario than to think that your loved ones had been miraculously rescued from a life-threatening situation, only to be told that it was a mistake and they’re in fact dead.

This was Chinese Whispers writ large, with the most upsetting outcome since the instance RocketBootMum always quotes, which saw “Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance” become “Send 3 and four-pence, we’re going to a dance”.

And this communication mix-up wouldn’t have come about even twenty years ago. It is only due to modern communications, well supported by corporate bureaucracy, that allows poor quality news to travel the world so quickly.

Because that’s what this was, poor quality information, for which there is no excuse, regardless of how much people in situations want to hear it. In these instances, the stances of Governments and Police forces are made clear: they do not want to propogate misleading or incorrect information, for precisely these reasons. They know perfectly well that if they give the media the wrong fuel, they’ll be fighting the fire for months.

Correspondingly, people should be more worldly-wise about the information presented to them, especially from the media. However, no-one can blame the relatives of the miners for grabbing any news they could get, especially that which reinforces their fervent hopes.

It does make you think; evey time you gossip, pass on a dodgy email or lie to someone, you are propogating or starting a chain of events that could end up in the ruination or worse of someone else down the line.

There are lessons for us all in this tragedy, both at a personal and professional level. But this is not the time for lessons.