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Diamond In the Rough: USA Today Report Breaks the Media’s Negative Mold on Coal Mine Stories

Since the early January Sago Mine tragedy, most media have generally slanted coverage of the U.S. mining industry in a negative direction — focusing coverage on mining regulations as too weak, fines too smalls, or companies as too cheap to invest in safety equipment. That coal mining is a growing industry that pays well has been relatively unexplored by the media, but USA Today’s Tom Vanden Brook did a good job of it in his Money section cover story in the February 15 paper.

"Coal, once derided as a dirty fuel, is hot," Vanden Brook writes, adding, "Demand for coal to fuel power plants is growing as oil and natural gas prices soar. So is demand for miners."

Citing Jim Dean, director of West Virginia University’s Mining Extension Service, Vanden Brook reported that aging, retiring miners and a growing mining industry will yield around 7,000 new jobs in the next 10 years in West Virginia, while Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association told Vanden Brook some 50,000 miners would need to be hired in the next decade to meet national demand.

What’s more, noted Vanden Brook, mining jobs pay well as the "average West Virginia miner made about $64,000 last year, according to Workforce West Virginia… more than twice the $31,000 average income for all industries in the state."

The Free Market Project has previously reported how the media have skewed reporting towards arguments in favor of heavier regulation and attacking coal mining companies while ignoring the strong safety record of U.S. mining both in historical perspective, and when compared to other coal-producing countries.

[cross-posted to]

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Mr. Shepherd is a staff writer for the Business & Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.

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