In 1987, I was near the end of my stint as News Media representative for the Perry nuclear plant in Ohio. I was frustrated because it seemed like the major news outlets bent over backwards to broadcast negative nuke reports while seemingly ignoring anything positive. A former Press manager with a major news outlet in Cleveland, Ohio, took me aside and gave me the facts of life, if you will.
He said he appreciated my frustration, but I needed to understand why nuclear reporting had become so one-sided. He first explained that the Press is a money-making venture. The ratings determine advertising income; the lifeblood of the business. There were (and still are) a handful of topics that are sure-fire money-makers, including war, presidential elections, natural disasters, and airline crashes.
Then, he turned to Three Mile Island, which happened in 1979. He said the ratings literally sky-rocketed, and stayed that way for the better part of two weeks. In the years that followed, the news media found that negative nuclear reports continually caused a positive up-turn in ratings, and positive stuff didn’t. This trend dwindled away by the time of the Chernobyl accident in 1986 (which was, back then, the year before). Chernobyl not only re-ignited the ratings impact of nuclear accident reporting, but demonstrated that broadcasting the negative was better for business, without balancing the commentary, rather than with some sort of opposing viewpoint. The Press had found a new topic to add to the sure-fire money-maker; negative nuclear reporting.
My friend said the Press would continue to make the appearance of a balanced effort, but the negative side would always get the emphasis. He added that it might someday come to the point where the news media would entirely ignore the positive and only report the negative when it came to nuclear energy. He speculated that all it would take was one more accident.
Unfortunately, he was right.
Fukushima has pushed the world’s Press into the journalistic dark side. My Fukushima Updates blog has lashed the Japanese Press, and the world’s news media outside Japan, severely for only reporting the negative. OK…not only the negative. There is the rare case that something positive works its way in, but it is usually found deeply buried at the end of a negative story. But, the exception is never the rule. The Press’ penchant for accentuation of the nuclear negative, and elimination of the nuclear positive, is too obvious to ignore.
The most recent case in point concerns the child thyroid study that has been taking place in Fukushima Prefecture for the past four years. On October 5,2015, a team of four PhDs in Japan published a report alleging that the Fukushima accident had spawned a thyroid cancer epidemic among the prefecture’s children. (1) (Here-in, the Tsuda Report) The conclusion contradicted the Fukushima University Medical School, Japanese Research Center for Cancer Prevention and Screening, and National Cancer Center, which all found that the detected child thyroid pre-cancerous anomalies in Fukushima Prefecture cannot be realistically linked to the accident. Regardless, the Tsuda Report’s claim made major headlines in Japan. At the time of this writing, it has spread to numerous mainstream news media outlets outside Japan, including UPI and AP.
Here’s the problem. In December of 2013, a scientific report was published on a comparison of the rate of child thyroid, pre-cancerous anomalies in Fukushima Prefecture with the rates in three prefecture hundreds of kilometers distant: Aomori, Yamanashi and Nagasaki. (2) For background…theFukushima University medical team studying the issue had discovered that there was no prior data on child thyroid cancer rates in Japan. There was nothing to compare the 2012 results to. Was it typical or not? Because of the initial furor caused by the original release of their findings in 2012, the team decided to take matters into their own hands and offer free testing to volunteer families in the three (above) prefectures. Nearly 5,000 parents took advantage of the opportunity and had their children screened.
What was found was completely unexpected. The thyroid abnormality rates in Aomori, Yamanashi and Nagasaki Prefectures were actually higher than that discovered in Fukushima Prefecture! This conclusively indicated that the radioactive releases from the Fukushima accident had absolutely no negative impact on the health of the thyroid glands in Fukushima’s children. One Japanese Press outlet – just one – mentioned the 2013 discovery at the very end of an article about a few more children being found to have the anomalies in Fukushima. No other Japanese Press gave it a cursory glance. To date, I have found but one news outlet outside Japan that covered the positive news. (3)
On the other hand, when one maverick team of four Japanese with PhDs publish a highly questionable report – full of so many holes that it should be tossed into the trash – alleging a severe cancer problem caused by the Fukushima accident, it gets major coverage inside Japan and significant coverage by the world’s mainstream Press! At this point, it is important to emphasize that the Tsuda Report fails to acknowledge the fact that Prefectures unaffected by the Fukushima accident had the higher anomaly rates. (Which is why I say the Tsuda Report is worthy of the trash heap)
I’m so mad about this that I can’t find the words suitable for a mixed audience! The news media might not make money off sharing the good news about Fukushima, but they are committing a moral crime against humanity by not doing it.
To be sure, the omission of the truth about Fukushima’s child thyroid condition isn’t the only instance of this ethically repugnant practice by the Press inside and outside Japan. Other good news that has not seen the news media’s light of day includes: the completion of the ice wall around the four damaged units at Fukushima Daiichi, finishing the impermeable sea wall along the shoreline of the four damaged units, all 700,000 tons of stored Fukushima wastewaters having been purified, and the fact that no Fukushima Cesium has been found in Pacific Ocean Salmon or Steelhead Trout off the North American Coast. There’s more, but this should be enough to get the point across.
It’s past-time for the Press around the world to perform a public service – if the negative (albeit often questionable) reportage must continue in the interest of promoting profits, then the positive stuff should be also reported as a matter of human ethics. Anything less is a crime against humanity!