“Give us some time to learn how to deal with you [media] so that we don’t make the mistake of destroying the image that’s been created,” one of the rescued Chilean miners said at a recent press conference. In that earnest request is one of the most brilliant insights about the media: we know you’re going to try to turn this story into something less than what captivated millions of viewers around the world, and we’re just asking you to give us space (or, as Colin Powell said,”Let’s all count to ten before we leap on these things.”) before both of us go on to screw up a beautiful thing.
What is bound to get lost in the aftermath of the miners’ rescue is what this story is really, truly about. Yes, the individual stories of these particular miners is interesting – how ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances prevailed through their faith in God and their sense of humor. Life is full of great stories of individual and group heroism, and those stories should be covered. But that’s not what made this a media phenomenon — what made it one of the most watched events in the world is rarely mentioned in the coverage but is the key to everything that we are as human beings and the reason we watched in such great numbers.
People were riveted by people coming together to make the impossible possible. People want to see their leaders — political, business, community — come together and do whatever it takes to fix whatever needs fixing, and do it out of their commitment to the value of human life over profits and personal interest. That’s the story. When the media starts looking for more stories where people do just that — make the impossible possible — rather than looking for ways to exploit miner stories (while ignoring the 2600 deaths last year in China’s mines), then the media will have begun to find its purpose in delivering content that people really, truly care about.