Speak Your Piece: Mines and the Meeja

[imgbelt img=occupation320.jpg]The closing of rural news bureaus in Appalachia and the report on the Upper Big Branch Mine disaster suggest that the deadly dangers of mining will go on, unreported and unabated.


Scalf family genealogy

Death certificate of Henry Lockard, a Perry County, Kentucky, miner who died in a slate fall June 30, 1927. Miners continue to die on the job. Robert L. Cook of Martin County, Kentucky, died in March 2011. He was crushed by a continuous mining machine.

As a youth I worked in a mine (though in hardrock, not coal, and for the experience, not out of necessity). I’ve done quite a few stints on newspapers, too. So the report on Upper Big Branch’s deadly mine and word of rural news bureaus closing jogged my memory in a not-too-pleasant way.

When the meejamoguls say that people will get their news in other ways – from the internet or from teevee – they’re just kidding and we know it, at least, we should. “News,” “facts” and reporting on both are now all but things of the past.

I don’t like teevee much – or movies, if it comes to that – but I do watch both, despite the self-loathing sometimes generated by doing so. Teevee news is for the most part appalling and the major networks’ attempts at it would be funny if they weren’t so bloody tragic. “We ask the hard questions” actually means “Our reporters pull the best faces during noddies.”

Even the weather reports have degenerated into sensationalized nothingnesses that alarm charming little-old-ladies like my beloved ma-in-law. Here in the hint-of-cyan grass one day last winter, there was no snow, no wind, the temperature was a sniffle above freezing and the roads had been salted, but a “mist had reduced visibility to nine miles.”

So I thought I was past being amazed or shocked by anything that the intrepid army of the newmeeja could show me until one of our local teevee stations hit giddy new heights – there’s an oxymoron – during its prime-time newscast (have I got the lingo right?).

A Lexington, Kentucky, channel opened its 6 pm time-slot (I’m getting the hang of this) with:

“WLEX18’s BIG STORY at 6 o’clock…a coalminer has been killed in a rockfall in eastern Kentucky and we will be talking to his grieving family – but first, over to Mary at Rupp Arena where the Wildcats are on their way to number one spot….”

I haven’t got it down verbatim, but it reflects accurately what was presented, and how.
Oh hell, who cares? Just a bunch of hicks from the mountains and anyway, wasn’t he lucky to have a job instead of hanging around living on welfare in what’s left of his hills? And who even remembers the story today, other than members of his grieving family, of course, and maybe a few socialist, bleeding-heart liberals like me.

Oh, and speaking of mining. Yet again there’s talk about a merger of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.
If ever it does happen, you can kiss goodbye any delusions you might still have that governments run the world.

Frank Povah is a writer, editor and resident of Stamping Ground, Kentucky.