The media’s telling of the Japan story has been inexcusably bad. I can’t count the number of pieces about confinement breaches and radiation surges; where they are not information-free they are wrong, and where they are not wrong, they bypass what matters. Here are a few specifics.
The real story in Japan, by any objective measure, is the sustained post-tsunami desperation among those whose lives were swept away, and the narrative about the rescue and cleanup workers all over the Northeast. Read much of that? Me neither.
Bloggers and other flavors of lone wolf are publishing heart-wrenching photo-essays from the front line of the recovery effort. Newspapers and TV networks? They’re writing about the temperature of the water in some part (they don’t specify which) of some damaged reactor, illustrating it with video screen grabs of machinery they don’t understand enough to explain.
People across oceans from Japan should fear radiation? Um, what was the half-life of 131I again?
One of the best sources for just-the-facts about what’s going on is in fact a journalist, Martyn Williams. Mind you, he works for tech news outfit IDG, and the best way to sample his wares is via his tweetstream.
Of course, you can go get the real info from the MIT Nuclear Information Hub. Now, wouldn’t it be cool if there were a profession which went and digested the essential technical background and used it to tell us the real human story of the news in a way that’s compatible with facts? If only.
There have been many reports about the people fleeing Tokyo. None of these narratives have paused to consider whether the exodus constitutes chickenshit stupidity. I suggest it maybe does.
And right now in springtime, the New York Times is going, the mainstream media hopes, to lead them all on the path to a paywall; we’ll recognize the value they’ve been offering us and sign up for what they offer. Me, I think they picked the wrong year.
I personally think the Japanese are going to astound the world with the speed of the bounce-back. And I hope to visit Tokyo later this year.