Meredith Angwin at Yes Vermont Yankee has just published an excellent dissection of bias in the mainstream media. The vehicle in question, Associated Press, has had its knuckles rapped not just by Meredith but by numerous others for its slanted anti-nuclear reporting especially since the Fukushima meltdown of March 2011. Those others include the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), home of the prestigious Pulitzer Prize, plus the Nuclear Energy Institute, and yours truly.
In her article, Meredith talks about an AP piece on leaks of a fission-produced radionuclide called strontium-90 from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. While the piece mentioned that Sr-90 is “linked to cancer and leukemia,” it did not mention that the actual amount of Sr-90 leaked from Yankee was so tiny that the radiation emitted could not be differentiated from the natural background level.
Why mention the first but not the second?
I admit, up front and proudly, that I am pro-nuclear. So is NEI of course—they are an industry lobbying organization, after all—and so is Meredith. But CJR doesn’t have a dog in the pro- versus anti-nuclear fight. It is simply a well-respected watchdog organization, whose mission “is to encourage and stimulate excellence in journalism in the service of a free society.” So this isn’t just a bunch of pro-nuclear people complaining.
Here are two pieces the CJR has done since late September on AP’s nuclear reporting:
- “A Frustrating AP Series on Nuclear Safety”
- “AP Rings the Alarm: Story about cancers from Fukushima plays up the scare factor”
And here’s a very interesting clip of two NEI reps discussing AP’s ongoing smear campaign against nuclear.
Now, I have registered annoyance in recent posts with dedicated anti-nuclear lobbies, like Greenpeace, the Sierra Club, and the David Suzuki Foundation. In my view organizations like these are committed to spreading falsehoods and groundless fear about nuclear energy, which is by any measure demonstrably the cleanest, safest, and lowest-impact form of electric power generation that mankind has yet developed. I confess that I really don’t have much respect for organizations like this.
But I have outright contempt for media organizations that exhibit systematic bias. Media organizations in our society have a far higher responsibility for the public welfare than lobbies do. I have studied the history of societies in which propaganda played a major role. Propaganda does not just help put dangerous thugs in power and keep them there. It does deep and lasting damage to both the public psyche and the psyches of real individuals. It’s immoral.
Here we are, trying to address major global societal issues like poverty and underdevelopment, air quality, and industrial safety. It’s annoying that there are organizations dedicated to blocking the energy source that is by far our best hope for dealing succes with all of these issues.
But it is truly alarming that there is a media organization that uses its power to help these lobbies.
Thank you for this informative post. You know, when politicians slant the truth, it’s a certain amount of business-as-usual. When the media slants the truth so heavily, it is far more upsetting.
Exactly, you expect that from politicians. But established members of the Fourth Estate abuse their power when they collude with interest groups and dress it up as objective journalism.
As reading Rod Adam’s posts (as well as the pragmatic wisdom of Watergate’s Deep Throat) has convinced me – it’s always relevant to follow the money.
How many media ads have you seen promoting nuclear power, especially compared with methane, oil, coal, or almost any other form of energy production? Like every other organism or organization in the universe, the media conglomerates know very well which side of their bread holds the butter.
It is my belief that if nuclear concerns spent more money sponsoring ads and promoting themselves, they would get better treatment. As a media hermit and advertising tightwad, they have no seat at the table, nor any business office supporters, when the editorial narratives are being formed and the reporting spins calculated, and thus by default allow the opposition to control the story.