Rachel Maddow reports on Chesley Sullenberger, January 16, 2009

Yesterday afternoon, Steve Dahl tweeted that he was already sick of the “Mirace on the Hudson” coverage of US Airways Flight 1549.

I know what he means. TV news has mastered the process by which the most astounding occurrence is instantly hyped so full of grandiose clichés that all meaning is lost. In mere minutes, any marvel at all can be transformed into the overcooked white meat of a 20-pound turkey.

Yesterday morning on Good Morning America, I saw Chris Cuomo wrestling some sort of cosmic correlation out of the fact that the wind chill factor at the time of Thursday’s ditching matched the actual temperature during his live Friday report. Cuomo was attempting to wring empathy out of this Fahrenheit numerology. He was trying to convey to us that he was even now feeling the very same temperature as the “feels like” temperature the plane’s passengers must have felt just one day before.

Meanwhile, over at CNN Español, my man Rick Sanchez was goosing the story in Spanish:

speaking of spanish im at cnn espanol now doing spanish. talking plane crash. que piensan? milagro? heroe? o eficiencia yanqui?

Whad’ya think? Miracle? Hero? Or Yankee efficiency?

The “miracle” tag is the one that has stuck. This incident will henceforth be known through the ages as “Miracle on the Hudson.” If you hurry, the domain is still available.

A CNN headline from yesterday reads ‘God was certainly looking out for all of us’ — and an entry at Fark.com adds, “Especially when he put that flock of geese in front of the plane.”

Coverage like this is a perfect example of why Rachel Maddow‘s cable news show is enjoying such a rapid rise.

Last night in her own recap of the story — amazed though she was — Maddow properly credited the hard-working human beings who not only brought the plane down safely and rescued the passengers, but wrote the procedures and developed the regulations and designed the aircraft and trained the crew and required the floatation devices and tested the systems. She pointed out that we can use the lessons learned from this accident “to become a more resilient country.”

I would love to see a Rachel Maddow Book Club, and I am now curious to read The Edge of Disaster: Rebuilding a Resilient Nation by Stephen Flynn.

As long as reading recommendations are being exchanged, I would like to suggest the recent blog entry by Roger Ebert examining the good feeling we get from seeing people achieve something good — even when that achievement is not heroism on the world news level.

I am reminded of Bill Moyers‘ examination of heroism with Joseph Campbell, the brilliant teacher of mythology. Moyers observed that someone can be a hero simply by doing his job:

But I also know a man who said once, after years of standing on the platform of the subway, “I die a little bit down there every day, but I know I’m doing so for my family.” There are small acts of heroism that occur without regard to the notoriety that you attract for it.

There was also one blog entry I read yesterday which noted that all of the heroes involved in Thursday’s miracle were union members.

In this age of the do-everything-yourself economy, 40-minute waits on hold, and staggering corporate defaults, it is positively thrilling to see a whole bunch of people still displaying excellence in the jobs they do for us all — and I’m talking about everyone from Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger III to Rachel Maddow herself.

Here’s hoping that competence and service become our hot new trends.

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