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Free Market Project

3/1/2006 10:25:56 PM

Updated 02/24/06

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NBC Savidges the Mining Industry
‘Nightly News’ reporter makes one-sided call for more mine regulation

By Ken Shepherd
Free Market Project
Jan. 5, 2006

Send this page to a friend! (click here)     Closing his story with a warning from an unnamed former miner that “new safety laws are often written in blood,” NBC’s Martin Savidge presented viewers of the January 4 “Nightly News” broadcast with a one-sided call for more federal regulation of coal mining.

     Savidge didn’t include any company officials or federal regulators, and he failed to point out that federal mine inspectors finished their final 2005 inspection of the Sago Mine a little more than a week before the accident took place.

     Anchor Brian Williams introduced Savidge’s piece by suggesting that the Sago Mine accident in West Virginia was “already putting a harsh spotlight on mine safety in this country.”

     Savidge began by noting that mining deaths in 2005 were less than half the number recorded 10 years earlier – 22 in 2005 compared to 47 in 1995 – but still used it as a springboard to present a one-sided call for more regulation.

     “Critics contend the federal Department of [Labor’s] Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) is now less a policeman and more a partner with the mining companies,” Savidge warned, introducing a sound bite from Ellen Smith, publisher of Mine Safety and Health News.

     Savidge’s policeman analogy conjured a subtle image of mining companies as crooks, not as legitimate businessmen supplying the fuel for power plants that produce about half of the nation’s electricity.

     Yet Smith herself agreed in principle with the notion of regulators working in partnership with companies, adding that concern for safety “has got to start at the top” of mining company leadership for such a partnership to work.

     A few hours later on CNN, anchor Paula Zahn went straight to the top for answers, questioning International Coal Group (ICG) chairman Wilbur Ross about the West Virginia tragedy. Ross, interviewed live in-studio on the January 4 edition of “Paula Zahn Now,” told the CNN anchor that federal regulators finished their final 2005 inspection on December 22, a little more than a week before the accident. Ross reminded Zahn that “federal authorities … have the power to close the mine if they believe it’s unsafe.”

     Rather than featuring Ross or another ICG official or reading a company statement, however, Savidge offered a mere half-sentence summarizing ICG’s defense. Even that he quickly dismissed by featuring a clip of a victim’s son claiming the company was indifferent to worker safety.

     Savidge closed his one-sided dispatch with the thought that “the tragedy may bring tougher regulation. As one former miner put it, ‘new safety laws are often written in blood.’”


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