Montgomery, W.Va. – Students in Barry Harrison’s State and Local Government class at WVU Tech asked Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant some tough questions this week.
Secretary of State Natalie Tennant discusses the media
coverage of the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion
Tuesday at WVU Tech in Montgomery.
What is the role of media during a disaster like the deadly Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in Montcoal? What is the role of state government? Was the portrayal of West Virginians fair?
Tennant, who is a former television news anchor, is in a unique position to answer those questions. In the days following the explosion, Tennant went to Montcoal to meet with the families of the men who were, at that time, still unaccounted for.
“For a time, I had to set aside being Secretary of State,” Tennant said. “We didn’t know what was happening underground. I went to pray with the families. Then I had to let everyone know that the Secretary of State’s Office monitors charities. I wanted to give some useful information to people who were truly heartbroken and vulnerable. I didn’t want a dishonest charity taking advantage of that by running a scam.”
The online database of charities licensed to solicit donations in West Virginia is on the Secretary of State’s website at www.wvsos.com
One organization helping the miner’s families is the West Virginia Council of Churches. Tennant pointed out that while churches are exempt from having to register as a charity, the Council of Churches is registered as a non-profit corporation.
Students asked Tennant about the portrayal of West Virginians during the disaster. Tennant said she thought the people affected by the explosion handled themselves with poise and grace, and that she feels the people covering the story will have a changed image of West Virginians. People in the coalfields brought food and other items to the media staging area at Marsh Fork Elementary School.
A video feature of the Memorial Wreath Laying for the 29 lost miners featuring speeches from US Department of Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Governor Joe Manchin, Senator Jay Rockefeller, and Congressman Nick Rahall can be seen below.