Michael Pascoe writes:

It’s less than a week since the rescue but
Sun Herald columnist Peter Fitzsimons yesterday provided a perfectly reasonable
glimpse of the backlash awaiting Todd Russell and Brant Webb once they’ve
signed their millionaire-making media deals. The media found deficient in the
chequebook department won’t take long to turn.

Fitzy might have been first, but only
just. Paul Sheehan in The SMH weighs in this morning as well, but first Fitzsimons’ line. The key bits:

Can anyone remember anyone in the Granville
train disaster asking for a dollar for intimate details of what it was like? In
2006, however, the nation as a whole seems to be right behind the miners
getting every dollar they can. Equally, there is no doubt that even while they
were in the cave, “Todd’n’Brant” were acutely conscious of the value of their
story. Asked by their rescuers to take pictures of each other and their
surrounds, they agreed, but only if they could retain the copyright – which was
agreed to!

…one
can’t help but wonder how a Beaconsfield
rescuer who’d risked his life to get to the trapped miners – and who now
doesn’t have a mine to work at for at least several months – might also be
feeling.

Russell and Webb showed commendable
strength of mind in extreme circumstances, entirely admirable stuff, but there
should be no doubt about who was taking the risks at Beaconsfield – the
blokes digging them out. I haven’t noticed any suggestion yet that the PBL
largesse might be shared equally amongst them.

But perhaps that’s the way the backlash can
be avoided. If Russell and Webb are as admirable as the nation has enjoyed
believing, the whole band of brothers sharing that two weeks underground, the
living and the dead, will also share the payoff.

It seems to be a thought that comes to Paul
Sheehan as well:

Webb and Russell are not heroes.
They are professionals and they are survivors. A tremor caused a wall of rock
to fall on top of them and killed their co-worker, Larry Knight, who has
already been reduced to a bit-player in this story…

…As they waited and waited – the
alternatives were in short supply – great courage and professionalism was also
shown by the men who went down to dig them out. Above ground, the public’s concerns
for the men, and the media’s job of getting the story out, soon blurred into
infotainment…

When
McGuire asked how it felt to be trapped so long, Russell replied, “Tell me
how big your chequebook is and we’ll talk.”

In an instant, news and gratitude
metamorphosed into “Todd Wants To Be A Millionaire”, with McGuire
back as host. It was not a magic moment. It will be interesting to see, now
that Todd Russell is pregnant with expectant wealth, how much makes its way to
his dead co-worker’s widow, Jackie, and three children, Lauren, Addison and
Thomas, nine months old.

The warning’s there; the less wealthy media
are waiting. The test of character – and media savvy – is ahead.

Peter Fray

A lot can happen in 3 months.

3 months is a long time in 2020. Join us to make sense of it all.

Get you first 12 weeks of Crikey for just $12. Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

12 weeks for $12