Ultimate Reality TV: Chilean Miner Rescue

The world really needed a story with a happy ending. And the rescue of 33 miners in Copiapó, Chile has provided just that.

The rescue is still ongoing, this morning 13have been pulled from the mine that collapsed 69 days ago. But it is all but assured that everyone will make it out alive.

“The promise of bringing these men to the surface is working with no hitches at all,” noted NBC News correspondent Kerry Sanders this morning on MSNBC.

More than 1,000 journalists from all over the world have descended on the small town in northern Chile. Thousands of cheering Chileans including family members and President Sebastián Piñera greeted the first miner, Florencio Ávalos, as he emerged from the capsule around 11:10 p.m. Eastern time on Tuesday, dark sunglasses on to shield eyes that have not seen daylight in more than two months.

It is an incredible story unfolding live on television and myriad broadband and mobile screens thanks to Chilean TV, which has provided a live feed at the top of the mine shaft as well as inside the hole where the miners have been living for 69 days. Perhaps the most dramatic moment came last night when the first rescue worker was greeted by trapped miners as he stepped out of the capsule that would ferry all of them to the earth’s surface and the waiting embrace of family and countrymen.

News organizations will keep correspondents in place until the last miner is pulled from the shaft, which is likely to be another day at least. It has been a heartening story to tell, one that will end with 33 lives saved, a conclusion that was certainly not foregone two months ago when news of the miner’s plight first made headlines. News anchors talked about the medical needs of the men trapped underground for so long although most of them looked remarkably healthy as they emerged to hug wives and children waiting above.

As soon as the first miner was rescued, CNN put up an on-screen graphic counting the number of miners “rescued.”  This morning, Fox News Channel used the picture-in-picture tool to show the live feed from Chile as Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson interviewed the women’s U.S. water polo team about a nude team photo shoot for ESPN magazine.

CNN also had its own rescue capsule built to show the dimensions of the Fenix 2, which is 41 inches around and a little over six feet tall. And various anchors could not resist climbing into it to demonstrate the capsule’s claustrophobic confines.