It was a week ago today that the New York Times ran this lede:
Japan faced the likelihood of a catastrophic nuclear accident Tuesday morning, as an explosion at the most crippled of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station damaged its crucial steel containment structure, emergency workers were withdrawn from the plant, and much larger emissions of radioactive materials appeared imminent, according to official statements and industry executives informed about the developments.
The headline, which led NYTimes.com that night: “Japan Faces Potential Nuclear Disaster as Radiation Levels Rise.”
We can all be grateful that the worst hasn’t happened. It appears that the nuclear situation in Japan, despite continued setbacks, may slowly be coming under control. So my question this morning is whether the Times grossly overstated what was happening on that scary night.
A news organization should not lightly assert “the likelihood of a catastrophic nuclear accident.”
NYTimes.com’s lead headline right now is about as horrifying as it gets: “Japan Faces Potential Nuclear Disaster as Radiation Levels Rise.” The lede:
Japan faced the likelihood of a catastrophic nuclear accident Tuesday morning, as an explosion at the most crippled of three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station damaged its crucial steel containment structure, emergency workers were withdrawn from the plant, and much larger emissions of radioactive materials appeared immiment, according to official statements and industry executives informed about the developments.
Note the wording: the “likelihood of a catastrophic nuclear accident.”
I’ve been watching NHK’s English-language service at CNN.com. It is not reassuring, despite the cool élan of the on-air folks.
I hope I’m not just channeling my own dysfunction, but it seems to me that interest in the Chilean earthquake is pretty limited. There’s plenty of coverage out there. But this is not a story people are talking about, especially in comparison to the Haitian earthquake. The reasons are pretty obvious:
- Haiti is close to the United States, and Chile is on the other side of the world. Related to that is the fact that Haitian-Americans are a large minority group. Chilean-Americans are not.
- Media consumers are suffering from earthquake fatigue.
- Even though the Chilean earthquake was much more powerful, it appears that the death toll and the suffering will be far less than was the case in Haiti.
With that, a few ever-so-slightly non-mainstream sources for you to look at: If you’re not accustomed to heading for the Boston Globe’s Big Picture blog after something like this, well you should be. The New York Times is gathering user-submitted photos. Global Voices Online — which is holding its annual conference in Santiago, Chile, in May — has posted two blog round-ups, here and here. And Boston-based GlobalPost has uploaded a number of stories and photos from the scene and the surrounding area.
And let’s not leave out Boston’s Christian Science Monitor, a leading non-profit source of international news. A story on why Chile seemed so well-prepared, for instance, yields this gem:
Chileans are well versed in what to do during earthquakes, with drills part of every child’s schooling. “Just in case” attitudes, which might seem obsessive in other parts of the world, are the norm here. One woman says she turns off the gas valve every time she leaves the house, just in case a quake strikes when she is out.
This heart-stopping video/slideshow by the Boston Globe’s Bill Greene and Maria Sacchetti is a vivid illustration of the situation on the ground in Haiti right now.
The Globe has gathered together all of its Haiti coverage here. It includes stories, photos, audio and resources.
At the suggestion of frequent commenter Mike from Norwell, I’m adding a box for those who wish to donate to relief efforts for victims of the Haitian earthquake.
Rather than link to a long list of charities, which you can find pretty much anywhere (I recommend the Boston Globe’s list), I’m designating a fund set up by my religious denomination. It’s a joint effort of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee.
To donate, please click here.
The Boston Haitian Reporter is live-blogging news about the earthquake in Haiti.