Why was Sky News’s #chileminers counter crass? Any why didn’t they fix it?

There was a veritable storm on Twitter when a new on screen graphic appeared on Sky News’s coverage of the Chile mine rescue this evening. I have read comments describing it as a “joke” or “spectacularly crass” or “insensitive.” I plumped for “sensationalist.”

On the face of it the graphic – a counter of miners rescued – is innocuous. Why the outrage?

I think the reasons for the Twitter disgust are pretty subtle, and can be summed up as:

  1. Bad timing. The counter appeared, and stayed on screen, for several hours in the run up to the rescue, even when it became apparent the rescue was some way off.
  2. Sky introduced a custom set of graphics for this story, which they do for many major stories. However in this case, the soil texture used in the graphics is unusually in-your-face in saying to the viewer “just in case you have the attention span of a flea, these men are underground.”
  3. The location – top left corner, flush with the ┬áSky News logo, along with the presentation of two numbers in that format has an unfortunate and trivialising echo of a sports score.
  4. The tally has at times been accompanied by an advert for Sky News HD – nothing says ‘we are willing to insensitively exploit the situation these men are in’ quite like inserting an ad just above the counter recording their fate.
  5. And of course, as with most Twitter storms plenty of the comments are unthinking re-tweets and mock outrage.

Sky should not draw too much comfort from my fifth point – their credibility has taken such a hit that more than one person genuinely believed a spoof that circulated showing a parallell “Miners Dead: 0 of 33” counter.

And why not? To many it seems no more or less ridiculous.

The information itself is relevant and useful. If Sky had stuck to their regular graphics and included the tally on the ticker, or on a loop in the main graphics, no-one would have batted an eyelid.

Perhaps the most surprising thing is that at the time of writing, with new criticism of Sky appearing on Twitter at a rate of one critical tweet every five seconds, they haven’t taken the simple steps necessary to fix it.


Robin Fenwick

Communications Director and public affairs professional, digital specialist, ex political activist, early music enthusiast.
Posted in Media.