Getting past the media meltdown

The media has been going bonkers on the Japanese nuclear-plant problem post tsunami. Much of the reporting is based on ignorance. No, a hydrogen explosion is not a nuclear explosion, as some reported. No, radiation released is not “radiation poisoning,” as other media outlets have reported. No, the sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier were not imperiled as they steamed through (er, actually, they nucleared through, since the ship is powered by a nuclear reactor) a “nuclear cloud” off the coast of Japan.

The media doesn’t understand that there is radiation and there is radiation. As Charlie Martin explains in an excellent piece on Pajamas Media:

It can be thought of like sunburn — if you’re out in strong sunlight for fifteen minutes, you are getting a “small dose” of sun; four hours, and you get a “big dose” and may get a sunburn.

Brief exposure to radiation can be counteracted with something as simple as soap and water. I was the designated “radiation control NCO” of my Air Force unit in Germany in the 1960s, and the number one piece of equipment for fighting radiation was a vacuum cleaner. My job was to determine how long an individual could be outside in a post-attack radiation environment. When they came back in, we were instructed to vacuum them down to get dust particles off their bodies.

When I helped the with the cleanup of the B-52 that crashed at Thule, Greenland, in 1968, they’d run a Geiger counter over us at the end of the day. They took my mukluks away each night, but that was it. Some guys were told to shower if their parkas made the counter click.

Read Martin’s full article and you’ll see how uninformed most media coverage of nuclear issues is.

UPDATE: One reasonable media voice happens to be coming from The Stars & Stripes.

Written by

JonHam

Jon Ham joined the John Locke Foundation on Feb. 21, 2005. Prior to joining JLF he had worked for The Herald-Sun newspapers in Durham, NC, for 19 years, 13 of those as managing editor and four as director of digital publishing. He has worked for newspapers in Georgia, Alabama, North Carolina and Virginia, and also worked for four years as a gubernatorial press secretary. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Georgia and a master's degree in political science from Auburn University. He did three years of doctoral work in political science at Duke University before joining The Durham Sun in 1985.

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