The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Media Perfect

Earlier this week, 12 miners died at a Sago, West Virginia coal mine after a frantic 40 hour rescue effort failed to save them. This tragic story is compounded by erroneous media reports that the miners were reported alive, causing then grieving relatives to celebrate a “miracle” only later to learn that no miracle had occurred.

Yesterday and today, CNN and other media outlets went into ‘defense mode’ – something that I’ve noticed recently when media imperfections become glaringly obvious. With righteous indignation, they attacked the coal company executives (who, but the way, never authorized the release of the erroneous report). There’s no question that the release of the information was a major mistake, but in an imperfect world, with people working under extreme pressure, mistakes happen.

The general tone of media reportage over the past decade is one that expects perfection in all things. A cop must make a perfect decision when a perpetrator pulls a gun; a drug company must make perfect medications and predict every side effect to 100% accuracy, the government must mount a perfect response to a natural disaster, the military must develop perfect war plans – even the slightest mistake is unforgivable. Context is never considered.

When the general public is presented with cries for perfection, they begin to expect no less. The problem is, nothing – people, products, companies, governments -- is perfect. Not even the media.

And since the media is considerably less than perfect – as evidenced by repeated mistakes, inaccurate reporting, falsified information, and the like – maybe each of us should think a bit more critically about their quasi-progrom against others who err.