It is not surprising that the mainstream media does not cover the nuclear issue fairly. In countries where the nuclear industry is owned by the government, then media coverage is carefully managed by the government – e.g China, France, Russia.
In countries where the nuclear industry is owned by private corporations, then we find that those same corporations either own, or have close links with, the mainstream media. Once again, the corporate ownership carefully manages coverage of nuclear issues.’ – e.g USA, Australia.
Clare Booth Luce observed, may decades ago, that “one doesn’t need to put chains on people, if one can put chains on their minds”. So, many journalists just know how their employers want the story to be covered, or more often, not covered at all. A pervasive attitude develop - that it is somehow “radical”, or “unpatriotic” to raise objections to a big industry. So, print, TV, radio journalists find it all too easy to toe the corporate line. After all, it’s much more fun to cover issues like the sexploits of a sports celebrity, anyway, – than to cover the nuclear issue and its meaning for the children and grand-children of the future.
As an example of corporate ownership of media – the USA:
The one green thing about the media and nuclear power
SPINWATCH Karl Grossman, January/February 2008, FAIR What are the causes of the media nuclear dysfunction? The obvious problem is media ownership. General Electric, for one, is both a leading nuclear plant manufacturer and a media mogul, owning NBC and other outlets. (For years, CBS was owned by Westinghouse; Westinghouse and GE are the Coke and Pepsi of nuclear power.)
There have been board and financial interlocks between the media and nuclear industries. There is the long-held pro-nuclear faith at media such as the New York Times. There is also the giant public relations operation—both corporate, led by the NEI, and government, involving the Department of Energy and its national nuclear laboratories.
“You have the NEI and the nuclear industry propagandizing on nuclear power, and journalists taking down what the industry is saying and not looking at the veracity of their claims,” Greenpeace USA nuclear policy analyst Jim Riccio told Extra!. And then there’s lots of money. FAIR recently exposed (Action Alert, 8/22/07) how National Public Radio, which broadcasts many pro-nuclear pieces, has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from “nuclear operator Sempra Energy” and Constellation Energy, “which belongs to Nustart Energy, a 10-company consortium pushing for new nuclear power plant construction.”
The only thing green about nuclear power is the nuclear establishment’s dollars.
At left – “Freedom of Speech”, by Norman Rockwell, 1943
The Internet provides the opportunity for alternative and independent news. Mainstream corporate media clearly has its bias, – best evidenced in the issues that it DOESN’T COVER, but also in its role as corporate (or government) mouthpiece, and in its focus on (saleable) trivia and sensationalism.
Alternative media has its biases, too – all media comes from some opinion base. But bias does not mean that the information is false or worthless.
The best rule for evaluating any media coverage is simply “WHAT”S IN IT FOR WHOM?” If the answer is MONEY, then we must view the item with scepticism. (And that applies to much corporate media ” information”).
But there are other biases – e.g. fame, hatred, anti-science, religion … so alternative media must be scrutinised , too. organization.It’s always – “Let the viewer beware”. So i’s always necessary to assess alternative media items, too - Does it make sense?, Does it use inflammatory or extreme language? Does it quote reputable sources? What’s in it for whom?
There are so many independent websites and blogs. On scrutiny, we can assess their credibility, and their bias. Very often, the bias is a passion for revealing the truth.
This same passion can show in mainstream media, too, and those news/information services deserve credit – e.g The Huffington Post Breaking News and Opinion on The Huffington Post
Mother Jones magazine
Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman is a great daily news show,
Pacifica itself is a progressive radio network
The Real News Network is a blossoming online video news operation
Extra! is The Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting group’s media watchdog magazine.
Truthdig is an online news source similar to Alternet,
Mainstream media must improve their act on coverage of nuclear issues
2010 is an especially important year for media responsibility, for several reasons.
- Anti-science thinking. Especially in the English speaking world, there is a developing social climate of Anti-Science. As matters like Climate Change become more complicated, science understanding seems to be drifting into the narrow realm of the well-educated elite, while the majority put science into the too-hard basket – and some see science information as part of some conspiracy to take over the world.
- Urgency of Climate Change, and the Nuclear Danger. The public need to know and understand the issues, if sensible action is to be taken
- Election year In the USA and Australia national elections risk the return of anti-science governments.
Media problems. (a) The Myth of “Balance”Apart from the pressures from corporations and governments, apart from the media’s need for both sensationalism, controversy, and trivia, – there is a powerful myth within the media – information presented must be “balanced”. That means that if 100,000 reputable scientists accept the science of man-made global warming, but 5 or 6 other scientists do not, media believe that equal weight must be given to both views.
If 100, 000 environmental scientists regard nuclear waste as an unsolved and too dangerous problem, while 5 or 6 nuclear scientists do not, then media give equal weight to both views.
Thus the media ends up with some compromise – a balanced view – Climate Change is not really so bad, Nuclear Energy and Nuclear weapons can be made safe.
If the Earth’s shape were currently an issue, the media might end up with the information – Well – the Eaeth is really oval – or – it’s flat at one side, and spherical at another.
To make “balance” essential does not serve truth well.
Media problems (b) – journalists don’t do their homework. When they quote a source, journalists should check out the credibility of that source. The best example that springs to mind is the case of the media’s use of information from Patrick Moore:
Patrick Moore: Media coverage that doesn’t disclose Moore’s nuclear consultancy work – SourceWatch Since April 2006 Patrick Moore, who was a Greenpeace activist in the late 1970s and the early 1980’s, has been a consultant for the the Nuclear Energy Institute’s (NEI) front group, the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition. Moore has also been widely quoted in media reports and spoken at numerous pro-nuclear events. However, comparatively few journalists include disclosure of his consultancy work for NEI or nuclear companies.Some of the journalists and media outlets that have failed to disclose Moore’s pro-nuclear work are: (long list here, – I quote only a small part of it – C.M )
Bruce Erskine, “Greenpeace founder: It’s all on you: Don’t change the world, change you, Moore urges”, The ChronicleHeralad.ca (Halifax, Nova Scotia), January 16, 2009.
Amy Goodman, “Should Economic Stimulus Bill Include Billions for Nuclear Power?,” Pacifica’s “Democracy Now!,” February 5, 2009
Donald Jaramillo, “Mining group unhappy with state agencies: Former Greenpeace Founding Member Speaks at Legislative Dinner”, Cibola Beacon (New Mexico), February 12, 2009.
Patrick Moore, op/ed: “Nuclear deal: Senate chose savings, jobs, future,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Georgia), February 24, 2009.
Jim Doyle, “Nuclear power industry sees opening for revival”, San Francisco Chronicle, March 9, 2009:
Becky DeVries, “State debates future of nuclear power,” WLUK-TV 11 (FOX, Green Bay, Wisconsin), March 12, 2009.
Cindy Hodgson, “Go nuclear to go green: Power proponent advises lawmakers,” Manitowoc Herald Times Reporter (Wisconsin), March 13, 2009. (The same article was also printed by the Green Bay Press Gazette.)
Ned Potter and Carrie McGourty, “30 Years After Three Mile Island: Nuclear ‘Renaissance’?,” ABC News, March 27, 2009.
Mina Shankar, “Greenpeace co-founder lauds benefits of nuclear energy,” The Daily Northwestern (Evanston, Illinois campus paper), April 7, 2009.
Melissa Pistilli, “Saskatchewan to Consider Nuclear Power,” Uranium Investing News, April 7, 2009. “
Cosby Woodruff, “Greenpeace founder claims group now energy inefficient,” Montgomery Advertiser (Alabama), May 21, 2009.
Elizabeth Svoboda, “New Tech Could Make Nuclear the Best Weapon Against Climate Change: Two new designs aim to make nuclear reactors safer and vastly more efficient,” Discover magazine, June 2009.
Joe Hoover, “Environmentalist Supports Nuclear Power: Says green advocates made a mistake“, Newstalk650.com, July 14, 2009. “As the debate rages on over Saskatchewan’s uranium future, one environmentalist is encouraging the development of nuclear power. Patrick Moore is a founding member of Greenpeace. He now heads up Greenspirit Strategies. NewsTalk Radio’s John Gormley t
Joe Hoover, “Environmentalist Supports Nuclear Power: Says green advocates made a mistake,” News Talk 650 CKOM (Saskatchewan, Canada), July 14, 2009. “
“Dr. Patrick Moore Speaks at NSBA Luncheon,” SaskatoonHomepage.ca (Saskatchewan, Canada), July 14, 2009.
Joanne Paulson, “Business association hears nuclear pitch”, The StarPhoenix, July 15, 2009.
Patrick Moore, “Nuclear investment part of a viable energy portfolio,” San Antonio Express-News (Texas), September 16, 2009.
Patrick Moore, “A changing climate around nuclear energy”, Statesman-Journal.com (Oregon), October 12, 2009.
“Take 5: Patrick Moore: five questions. five answers”, Lansing State Journal, November 23, 2009. Q:
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