Can Web 2.0 tap into the truth behind the mining disaster?

An overview of the recent coal mine disaster, the spin that's come out of it, and the possibilities for Web 2.0 to combat it...

A Murray Energy Corporation coal mine in Utah collapsed Monday morning leaving six miners trapped. Two days later rescuers still haven't been able to reach the trapped miners, and though they anticipate making contact within the next two days it's uncertain these efforts will be successful and if anyone will be alive when the rescuers find the miners. Meanwhile, a growing controversy has developed around what caused the mine to collapse, the safety of the operation and the illegitimacy of news reports on the story.

Some of the reports of the mine collapse focused on how the company uses a process known as retreat mining in order to pull out as much coal from the mine as possible. In an article for the Seattle Times, Seth Borenstein explains the process and the safety concerns associated with retreat mining:
The Crandall Canyon mine collapse happened while miners were engaged in a method called "retreat mining," in which pillars of coal are used to hold up the roof in an area of the mine. When that area is completely mined, the company pulls the pillars and grabs the useful coal, causing an intentional collapse.

It is "the most dangerous type of mining there is," said Tony Oppegard, a former top federal and Kentucky mine-safety official who is now a private attorney in Lexington, Ky., representing miners.
This criticism sparked a response from Bob Murray, the CEO of the mining company, in the form of a press conference that words cannot describe. A video of his statements is available at Webloggin.

During the press conference Murray asserted that the mine collapsed as a result of a recent earthquake, suggested that the US economy would crumble without coal energy, and also attacked both Borenstein and Fox News for their reporting:
I particularly cite Mr. Seth Borenstein of the associated press for particularly bad reporting and as of this morning the Fox News Network on what has occurred here. Rather than utilize the truthful statements that you have heard here, the associated press and Mr. Borenstein chose to use statements from Mrs. McAteer, Oppegard, Odell and Roberts, who were totally false and have nothing to do with or have any understanding of what?s happened here. And this morning Fox News network was at it also. I hop you report that and I will cite to you in every one of these interviews all false reporting that we hear. But I would certainly not depend on the Associated Press and Mr. Borenstein for any truths if I were an American citizen.
The reaction to Murray's statements was all over the map. Some sites such as Newsbusters whose tagline reads, "Exposing and Combating Liberal Media Bias," applauded the CEO for finally taking the media to task whereas others such as Craig Stoltz at The Point of 2.0 reminded his readers of the 47th rule of journalism: "When the CEO of a company in a difficult situation says to listen only to him for 'the truth,' run immediately to other sources to determine said truth."

Stoltz concluded his post with a call to action:
What's needed is a team of dispassionate footsoldiers who band together, with disinterested sponsorship and without the corporate and professional intellectual habits of MSM, to lay out the facts about who's right and who?s wrong in a public dispute about the facts like this. This project would need to be established and, on a moment's notice, be ready to jump into action. A sort of Code Blue truth squad. A sleeper cell of citizen fact-finders.

The tools exist. The need is here. The opportunity struck today.

It will be interesting to see if the culture of 2.0 is developed enough to produce a meaningful response.

After digging through various blogs and citizen journalism sites for more on this story, it became apparent that while many of the claims are being parsed on an ad-hoc basis, there doesn't seem to be any sites designed with this purpose in mind.

Stoltz is right though, Web 2.0 has the potential to create this solution and I'm sure there are many people hungry for it. If it does exist, then it needs some VC funding to raise it's visibility and if it doesn't not exist, I'd imagine there's a geek with the skills and an angel with the money to make it happen. Anyone want to step to the plate?

About the author

    Josh Wolf first became interested in the power of the press after writing and distributing a screed against his high school's new dress code. Within a short time, the new dress code was abandoned, and ever since then he's been getting his hands dirty deconstructing the media every step of the way. Wolf recently became the longest-incarcerated journalist for contempt of court in U.S. history after he spent 226 days in federal prison for his refusal to cooperate. In Media sphere, Josh shares his daily insights on the developing information landscape and examines how various corporate and governmental actions effect the free press both in the United States and abroad.

     

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