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Marathon rescue of Chilean miners becomes global media spectacle

  • By Guest
  • October 13, 2010

By Ingrid Bachmann

The event that was promised to be the media story of the week certainly lived up to its billing. The successful rescue of 33 miners trapped for 69 days 2,300 feet below ground has captured the attention of the entire world who followed the live broadcasts and constant web updates, CBS and the Association Press report.

More than 1 billion people followed the rescue operation on TV and many others spread the news through social media. The expectation and excitement it provoked has been compared to the first moon landing, Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the aborted Apollo 13 mission.

Media analyst Howard Kurtz called it “a perfect television story” with “a touch of danger but an expected happy ending.” The front pages of newspapers worldwide carried news of the successful rescue. With more journalists than family members at Camp Hope, the temporary refuge on the scene, the media operation practically paralyzed the country as journalists spread the news to millions in Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world.

“This is more than a story, it's a global community event,” said Yuen Ying Chan, a journalism professor at the University of Hong Kong, quoted by CNN. “People are mesmerized by it because it's not only a strong human interest story, but it involves a great number of people, has a lot of suspense, deals with life and death, and ultimately sparks people's curiosity.”

The government team that was in charge of broadcasting the rescue had access to restricted areas, but its video and images are available to foreign and domestic media outlets. According to La Tercera, the authorities considered a delayed broadcast of the rescue, but President Sebastián Piñera ordered a live feed, though officials were told not to show shots of the poor physical health of the miners. The Chilean government also has an official Flickr gallery with photos of the miners.

The official broadcast team included eight cameras and a 45-person production crew led by Reynaldo Sepúlveda, a renowned TV director, El Mercurio adds. Responding to fears the media was exploiting the miners and the rescue, Sepúlveda said the broadcast would not be “a show” and that they would cover the event responsibly.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.

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