Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Where nature may win

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  • Scott A,

    I finally popped over to Brian Edwards Media and read his rather passive-aggressive call for rescue heroics. I'm not sure why it surprised me, but it did leave a rather foul taste in my mouth when I realised, reading the comment thread, that Edwards was using the "I'm just saying what others are thinking" defence to his irresponsible call to action.

    And I was even more saddened that when the second (then a third, now a fourth) explosion revealed exactly why a posse of West Coasters charging to the rescue was a fundamentally bad idea that Edwards' response was to silence his critics and close off the comment thread.

    I do appreciate that in Edward's explanation of why he closed the thread, he ended with this:

    What can be said is that whether the decisions made by the police, the search and rescue teams and the management of the mine were right or wrong, they were the decisions that, on the available information and advice, they genuinely believed to be right. You cannot ask more than that.

    But, still, it's still not going as far to say that they were making the right call. Edwards was one of those who used 'public opinion' to attempt to pressure those in charge of the rescue to take rash action, and now chooses to silence the debate when his position was proved to be very very wrong.

    It seems, following the comment thread, that Edwards position shifted to concern that the police were not doing enough to tell people exactly why no rescue was being attempted. However I, mostly from Morning Report and this thread, came to understand why that was the case. So the message was getting out there; but not in more mainstream media. The questions were being asked, but the answers not being reported. Why not?

    Perhaps, as Edwards himself did, it's an outcome of reporting on 'feelings' and 'public mood' as the primary story, rather than the relaying of information and interpretation of that information.

    Mediawatch got off to a good start with unpicking this media side of this story this morning, and I'm going to be interested to see what more can be revealed over the coming weeks and months about the media side of this tragedy.

    The wilds of Kingston, We… • Since May 2009 • 121 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Looks like Pike River is turning into a funeral pyre for the 29...

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4351 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Scott A,

    The Brian Edwards posts about Pike River.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16739 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I'd be in favour of denying Edwards the oxygen of publicity, but obviously that's just me.

    More details on Royal Commission proposal. I'm a known Key apologist, but the preliminary talk seems pretty solid to me:

    [Key] will take a proposal to Cabinet today for an inquiry into the disaster.

    Yesterday he said there were "very hard questions to be asked and answered".

    "In the end, the future of Pike River and actually underground coalmining in New Zealand rests on this," Key told TVNZ's Q+A programme. "We can't put people into environments that are dangerous."

    The royal commission would be led by a judge and two others. Its work would be carried out in addition to inquiries by the coroner's office, the Labour Department and the police.

    There would probably be "an international component" to the commission, which would in turn draw on international and local expertise and have "absolute powers" to subpoena witnesses, gather information, and ask questions.

    The terms of reference for the commission would be "very broad", Key said.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7383 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole,

    It will be interesting to see what the Commission determines about the incident management decisions. I doubt Knowles has anything to fear from the Police internal process, and I imagine that he'll probably get some kind of commendation for his handling of the incident, but hindsight from non-expert examiners is frequently harsh and unforgiving beyond what is necessarily reasonable.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    denying Edwards the oxygen of publicity

    Some useful stuff in the comments.

    the preliminary talk seems pretty solid to me

    Not quite prelimiinary. Key initially said a royal commission wouldn't be needed but polling since no doubt said otherwise. Now it's his idea. Good politics..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16739 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Some useful stuff in the comments

    ..like this from Edwards himself:

    Curiously enough, I was speaking today to a member of the Waihi Mine Rescue Team whose view was that the communication to the public by the police had been poor at best. It took him two minutes to explain to me how one trouser leg brushing against another could produce enough static electricity to cause a further explosion as someone walked along those 2 kilometres.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16739 posts Report Reply

  • dyan campbell,

    I’m reminded of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, which perhaps expresses how one might feel too. To this day, you do not make jokes about the tragedy in the Great Lakes region, as many a would-be comedian has found. Another parallel is the destruction of the submarine Kursk.

    Comedians have tried to do that? I'm amazed anyone would try to make jokes about either the Edmund Fitzgerald or the Kursk.

    The song Gordon Lightfoot is a pretty close description of the Edmund Fitzgerald's fate - and shortly after the disaster, the wreckage was located, and is shown here in the tribute that was put up with the song.

    auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 595 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Sacha,

    So what he's saying is that Knowles didn't spend enough time justifying to the baying hounds of the collected meedja why he wasn't sending men to what's turned out to be almost-certain death. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.
    Knowles spent more time than was strictly necessary trying to pacify the rabid hordes as it was, without having to spend more time presenting explanations that, no doubt, wouldn't have been passed on to the public in news bulletins anyway.

    ETA: If it took two minutes in a one-on-one conversation, how many hours would've been wasted trying to answer the inevitable thick-as-shit questions from fuckstick Aussie journos who just wouldn't want to know the answer? Not a good use of Knowles' time to try and explain this one in a press conference.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    And really this is not rocket science. There are a few basic principles which needed to be explained and just about everything else flowed from there.

    Apart from the initial CIMS/Rescue 101 stuff, it is not Knowles job to ensure that everyone keeps up. I've not spent time trawling through the history of articles but the impression I got over time was that media websites were lacking. In particular they could have had a link (writ large) to a page that explained these to Jo Public.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 294 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    So what he's saying is that Knowles didn't spend enough time justifying to the baying hounds of the collected meedja why he wasn't sending men to what's turned out to be almost-certain death. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

    Hey, it's not my fault if I'm ignorant, unwilling to get informed but still eager to make my opinion known and drive traffic to my blog.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7383 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    You know what else gets on my tits? Public libraries.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7383 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    Yes, one wonders if Edwards considers "the communication to the public by the police" to include the media in between?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16739 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to Sacha,

    Sacha - you aren't seriously suggesting that the news media is a means of education? What would the sponsors think....

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 294 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    You know what else gets on my tits? Public libraries.

    Oh man, do not get me started on that one again…

    So what he’s saying is that Knowles didn’t spend enough time justifying to the baying hounds of the collected meedja why he wasn’t sending men to what’s turned out to be almost-certain death. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

    I think he's now tacitly admitting that his earlier pontification on mine rescue methods was entirely meaningless and ill-informed, but as a professional comms consultant he believes the news media were poorly served by the rescuers, and that's clearly the real tragedy, amirite?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1563 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Dismal Soyanz,

    I was flattered to see a link to my "Lead Agency 101" post flying around twitter as the explanation for why it was Police running the show, but I never saw anything in t3h meedja explaining it to the wider public. I tried hard to use accessible language in the explanation, and everything that I said could've been verified with a called to MCDEM or, heaven forbid, the Police themselves, and then published for general consumption. That would've nixed a whole heap of the gripes that were floating around, perhaps even a majority once it became clear to people that the call not to send in rescue teams was being advised by Mines Rescue.
    But, rather than trying to educate the media just left the confusion to feed on itself and fuel anger and ignorance.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Dismal Soyanz,

    you aren't seriously suggesting that the news media is a means of education?

    Education is failure - just ask that Mike Hosking chap.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16739 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Hey, it's not my fault if I'm ignorant, unwilling to get informed but still eager to make my opinion known and drive traffic to my blog.

    You must be "grandstanding" to point that one out. :)

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16739 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz,

    Oh yes - read that yesterday and lol'ed.

    Especially the line about knowing his place.

    Is there sumwhr on the interweb I can goes 2 lurn teh nu social order?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 294 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    All credit to Kerre Woodham for eloquently opposing a talkback perspective.

    But I hope a few New Zealanders take a long hard look at their own conduct too. What on earth made many people, whose only experience with coal mines was driving past one, assume that they knew more than guys such as Pike River boss Peter Whittall - a man with nearly 30 years' experience in coal mining and a man who was a personal friend and colleague of most of the guys trapped?

    ...

    These were blokes who yearned to wear their undies on the outside of their trousers and play Superman for a day. I'm sure their motives were pure but if Dan Rockhouse, one of the survivors of the initial blast and a man with a brother trapped in the mine, understood the necessity of waiting, what gave armchair critics the right to criticise and worse - accuse the rescuers of deliberately sitting on their hands?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16739 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Poole, in reply to Matthew Poole,

    NZ uses the Coordinated Incident Management System for command and control of emergency responses.

    Having read the relevant sections of the Royal Commission's report, it's quite interesting to look back at this. I had assumed, very wrongly, that there was a proper CIMS structure in place. There wasn't. In fact, the Commission raised concerns that some of the issues with the management of the response were down to the fact that there wasn't a proper CIMS structure in place. Knowles hadn't even been through formal CIMS training despite its having been in existence for so long that he would've been at least a senior sergeant and an inspector while it was in place. Clearly the Police have a lot of work to do around being read to operate within a CIMS structure for a real multi-agency response.

    More broadly, the Commission was pretty damning on the true level of formalised cooperation between the state emergency services, Department of Labour, Mines Rescue, and Pike River. That is, there was none, at any level. No MoU anywhere to resolve the question of who would be lead agency and who would provide the Incident Controller (IC doesn't have to come from the lead agency), etc. The contrast with NSW and Queensland is stark and unflattering, though that's really unsurprising in the NZ environment.

    The pit from whence crawl… • Since Mar 2007 • 3909 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes,

    Yet another example of Nationals "Do Nothing" style of "Hands Off" government.
    It is getting to the point that I am losing count of the trail of incompetence they always leave in their wake, leaky homes, idealogical meddling in Education, Highway mania, I could go on but the most damning has to be the destruction of workers rights and safety.
    Leaving the safety of workers up to the whim of profit seekers in an effort to increase productivity will always end in tragedy.
    I would like to remind John Key that being Prime Minister is not a hobby and being "relaxed" about the effect his tenure is having is insulting to the rest of us.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4869 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    "Do Nothing"

    The examples you use are all quite active destruction and harm. Please stop describing it in ways that leave govt's hands looking clean.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16739 posts Report Reply

  • Steve Barnes, in reply to Sacha,

    Whatever, I'll just fuck off then.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4869 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    eh? find a better way of framing their harm is all. That 'do nothing' line utterly failed to engage between 2008 and 2011. Public deserve better.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16739 posts Report Reply

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