About that Coal Miners Myth

What You are Getting Wrong About Appalachia by Elizabeth Catte is the book I have been telling everyone that they should read.

It’s short and well-written.

It will make you rethink and think again about the role of media in political campaigns.

I have taken a hiatus from Facebook so I miss hearing from a lot of folks over there, miss keeping up with them. But I needed a rest from the frenzy that is Social Media and information overload. So what do I do instead? I read. More essays and books in the past few weeks than I did in the past six months.

Funny, I thought leaving Facebook might ease the information overload, and it might if only I would read Victoria Holt novels like I used to. Instead, I’m reading things like Catte’s book.

Here’s some things I’m thinking about as I read:

  • West Virginia only has 5 electoral college votes, so why did media spend so much time playing it up during the 2016 election? The number of articles and features that came out about “Ground Zero for Trump Country” was astounding. Many of them were released in the weeks before the election – October 2016.
  • There are only about 50,000 Coal Miners in the US. That’s about the population size of Dunwoody, Ga.
  • What if instead of replaying the remark that “We are going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business”  media had instead used these words from that same speech “We don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.”
  • Media controlled the narrative in 2016 and in a large part because of how they framed that narrative 100 million did not bother to vote. Those people put Trump in office.
  • Another 12,000 manufacturing jobs were lost during this last jobs report. Since George W. Bush first took office, nearly 6 million manufacturing jobs have been lost.
  • Not to diminish the miners, but should we be talking about the steep decline in manufacturing jobs and how that is impacting people’s lives?
  • But speaking of miners and how West Virginia was sold by the media as
    “ground zero” for Trump’s 2016 election: Wilbur Ross was owner of the Sago Mines when a dozen miners suffocated to death following a mine blast in 2006. Sago had been cited for over 200 safety violations prior to the deaths of the miners. Meanwhile, Ross was leading a billionaire’s life in Palm Beach. Those suffocating miners used their lunch pails to concentrate oxygen because the safety breathing equipment needed and required by law wasn’t there. Trump, billed as the coal miner’s choice, rewards the miners’s killer by appointing Ross as Commerce Secretary.
  • In 2008, West Virginia was known as Hillary country. She beat Obama by a sizable margin in the primary. In McDowell County, Hillary took more than 70 percent of the vote.

I tuck these tidbits away and ponder upon them. As a member of the media myself, I know that any story can be framed to evoke specific emotions from readers or listeners. That’s the power of storytelling.

I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but it does appear that media has succeeded a great deal of its control over the narrative for the #2020 election to Trump and his administration. One only has to look at the Justice Department to see how fine tuned this administration is at manipulating media and thus the masses.

Looking back at 2016, I wonder if the reason that media spent so much time carrying on about West Virginia and the citizens of McDowell County is because West Virginia is so accessible to journalists in NYC and DC. Easy on those corporate budgets, too.

I mean Oregon has 7 electoral college votes and we didn’t have media crawling all over the place here in search of “Ground Zero for Trump.” National media usually takes the approach that Oregon voters don’t matter. But a state with less electoral votes does? Go figure.

Anyway, these are the things I’m thinking about these days as I hang my Anyone But Trump flag out and wear my new hat: Save Democracy, Vote Blue.

And just FYI, it won’t matter which Democrat gets elected to the presidency unless we flip the Senate, too. All those promises will disappear like those manufacturing jobs unless we have a Senate that can enact the legislation.

Because if anything should be clear to voters by now, it’s that Republicans in the Senate and the House have fully embraced the idea of an autocratic government.

If that idea terrifies you, make sure you don’t sit this election out like the last 100 million voters did.

Karen Spears Zacharias is an American who believes that regulations that protect public welfare is not just a good thing, it’s the moral thing to do.



Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.

1 Comment


about 3 years ago

Very good points! Thanks for continuing to write!


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