Speak Your Piece: Pulitzer’s Cold Comfort

[imgbelt img=Steve+Day+2.jpg]The Center for Public Integrity wins a well-deserved Pulitzer for its investigation of the corrupt black-lung benefits program. But the political leaders who claim to be on the side of coal miners should have been paying attention long before the reporters made a national story out this disgraceful state of affairs.


ABC News produced this report with the Center for Public Integrity (CPI) on the role of Johns Hopkins doctors in refuting miners' black-lung claims. CPI won a Pulitzer Prize this week for their series on black lung.

I have mixed emotions over the Center for Public Integrity’s winning of their first Pulitzer Prize for the investigative report by Chris Hamby on black lung. 

The series focused on the southern West Virginia coalfields and miners who are suffering and dying from black lung, while the top lawyers, doctors, coal operators and hospitals are paying big bucks to each other to defeat these sick and voiceless miners and their families.

The people of the southern West Virginia coalfields owe a debt of gratitude to Chris Hamby, the Center for Public Integrity, ABC News and others for taking on what no one inside the region has been able to do – tell the world that the Appalachian coalfields are corrupt.

Workers like black lung attorney John Cline of Piney View, West Virginia, Dr. Donald Rasmussen of Beckley and many others have worked tirelessly to help these miners suffering from black lung in the face of this powerful and corrupt opposition. 

Surely, our political leaders, most of whom have been in office for decades, will not view this Pulitzer Prize lightly. An award of this magnitude should be a wakeup call our leaders. The outside world is now aware of the plight of the coalminer and his family. His work, his life, his death and the dreaded illness that cripples and kills him, black lung, are not to be taken lightly. Miners and those who depend on them deserve to be treated as human beings instead of high-stake pawns used by doctors, lawyers and hospitals as a money-making scheme, in which coal operators are willing to pay top dollar to see the disabled miner defeated.

West Virginia is at the top of every negative survey list you come across. Public opinion polls are having a field day painting negative portrayals of West Virginia, and they have the statistics to back up their claims. This is hurtful and disturbing. But it doesn’t take a degree in clinical psychology to understand why coalfield residents have reason to be miserable or depressed when those in control of your work, livelihood and health are working against you.


several books on Appalachian heritage and social issues.