Race to Secure Rights to Miners' Ordeal is On

Publish date:
Updated on

The last miner has yet to be rescued from the collapsed mine in Copiapó, Chile, but part two of the media wave is already afoot.

More than 1,000 journalists from all over the world have descended on the small city in northern Chile. And producers and bookers are busy wooing families of miners who have already made the journey up to the surface in a narrow capsule. Book deals and movie rights are in the offing. And the first announcement of an “exclusive” sit-down with a TV anchor could come at any minute.

NBC’s Natalie Morales, who speaks Spanish, is in Chile and will certainly be very helpful to Today bookers there.

Industry observers are estimating that the miners’ story could be worth several hundred thousand dollars to TV production houses with television interviews going for as much as $20,000. U.S. television networks do not pay outright for interviews. But bookers will proffer all-expenses paid trips to New York for miners and their families as well as payments to license photographs and home videos.

British journalist Jonathan Franklin, who has lived in Chile for 16 years and has been covering the miner story for The Guardian, has sold a book project to publisher Transworld. 33 Men, Buried Alive: The Inside Story of the Trapped Chilean Miners, is set for publication in the U.K. early next year.

The miners - through their families - have been besieged with endorsement offers for everything from mining equipment to beer. 

There have been reports that early in their ordeal, the miners made a verbal agreement not to share certain aspects of their story with the media and that they would collectively draw up a contract to share proceeds of the sale of their story and prevent any individual from profiting from the group story. But it is unclear if in fact such a contract exists or is even enforceable.

Alejandro Pino, the safety supervisor at the San Jose mine, told reporters on the scene that he conducted mock interviews with the miners before the rescue operation commenced; instructing them on how to answer the inevitable barrage of questions.

“Everything that every instant star in America goes through is going to play out on a national stage,” public relations executive Howard Bragman noted on MSNBC.

Bragman is representing erstwhile Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater, who catapulted to fame when he activated the exit slide and beat a hasty retreat, beer in hand, after a flight during which he apparently had a verbal altercation with a passenger.

Bragman stressed that though Slater has had offers for his story, none of them have included life-changing amounts of money. Of course, life-changing is relative: the miners make anywhere from 4 to 9 million pesos a year, which amounts to about $4,000-$19,000 annually.