Who wants to sell their story for $3 million?

Brant Webb and Todd Russell must feel that surviving underground for 320 hours is nothing compared to dealing with a media feeding frenzy. All the usual suspects caught the first flight down to Beaconsfield, circling like sharks at the first whiff of potential heroic rescue.

There were plenty of laughs along the way, particularly at Naomi Robson, who took time out from her vigil to attend the Logies.
Most hilarious was the footage of David Koch entering an ambulance, and Eddie McGuire playing everyone’s mate and shouting the bar, as if he were a blue-collar miner instead of a millionaire chief executive. To give him credit, The Footy Show raised millions of dollars for Beaconsfield, but at the same time rescued another dire charity case, Nine’s ratings.

This could provide the network with a successful new direction. Wherever there’s a disaster, Eddie should fly in, buy a round and raise money in a special charity edition of TV’s least sensitive show. I’m sure his flights to Darfur and East Timor are already booked.

The most cynical effort yet, though, comes from New Idea. Not only has the magazine brilliantly found the inevitable Princess Mary cover story angle (“Mary’s tears for miners”), they’ve also got an interview with Brant Webb’s father-in-law, in which he reveals exclusively his daughter communicated with her husband telepathically. What a help it would’ve been if he’d come forward earlier.

Editor-in-chief Robyn Foyster also scoops the prize for the most awful punning on a tragedy yet: “The miner miracle is anything but minor. Major epic springs to mind.” Truly, mine-numbing stuff.

My own telepathy says this tabloid tackiness is only going to get worse. Look out for Webb’s third cousin’s hairdresser’s next-door-neighbour selling her story of how Webb and Russell were experimented on by the aliens who live at the bottom of the mine.

In this media-savvy era, it comes as no surprise that even Brant’n’Todd were thinking of television specials while entombed. They filmed highly valuable

mid-ordeal footage with a camera the mine gave them to document conditions for their rescue.

Still, good on them. If I had to go through that, I’d want to make a motza as well. With celebrity agent Max Markson sensibly spurned, let’s hope that if anyone’s going to cash in on Webb and Russell, it’ll be the miners themselves.

At this point, it’s mandatory that I pause briefly and poignantly to remember that someone actually died down there. Our thoughts are with Larry Knight’s family at this difficult time. OK, back to the cashing in.

Thanks to the media’s appalling salivating over disaster survivors, a story of inspiring heroism is being overwhelmed by cynical exploitation.

And on that note, don’t miss next week’s scoop, where Russell and Webb exclusively reveal how Radar got them through their ordeal, even though they’d never read it. Let’s just say it involves telepathy.

UPDATE: So it seems Eddie Everywhere’s bar-shouting efforts have been rewarded with the multi-million dollar deal everyone was speculating about. I saw it reported on Sunrise this morning as Nine securing the deal “after 7 pulls out”, as if they’d had last-minute scruples about chequebook journalism. Didn’t quite ring true, though, in the middle of their “Thanks to Beaconsfield” special, which I guess is the event you have when you can’t actually get the two stars. I’m sure the town, weary of grandstanding media stars, immediately followed up their own “Bugger off back to Sydney” special event.

There was a touching moment with the surveyor who helped locate the two men. Kochie’s laser-sharp interviewing technique established that his primary school-aged daughter thinks her Dad is a “hero”. Oh well, if you can’t beat them, fawn over someone else.

But most importantly, it was a great chance to hear Paulini do a plug for Seven’s new Idol and Dancing With The Stars hybrid. It’s so easy to lose perspective when tragedy strikes, so it was great to see Seven focussing on what really matters – cross-promotion.

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