Saturday, March 26, 2011

News Coverage: The Post and the Times (NYC and LA)

newsboyHow are our major newspapers reporting on the situation in Japan today?  The New York Times still has it at the front of its site, but Libya and Syria have the lead positions.

The story leads with comments for the International Atomic Energy Agency:

The world’s chief nuclear inspector said Saturday that Japan was “still far from the end of the accident” that has stricken its Fukushima nuclear complex and continues to spew radiation into the atmosphere and the sea, and acknowledged that the authorities were still unsure about whether the nuclear cores and spent fuel were covered with the water needed to cool them and end the crisis.

That would by Yukiya Adano, head of the IAEA and Japanese himself. It seems odd not to lead with TEPCO or the Japanese government, but maybe Adano gave the most dramatic comments.

The Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Saturday that a test of seawater taken on Friday from a monitoring station at the plant showed the level of iodine 131 to be 1,250 times the legal limit. That was 147 times the level recorded on Wednesday, the agency said.

Fair enough. But:

Japanese authorities played down the news. Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general at the safety agency, said he expected the iodine to dilute rapidly, minimizing the effect on wildlife, and pointed out that fishing had been suspended in the area after the earthquake and tsunami.

“There is unlikely to be any immediate effect on nearby residents,” he said.

“Played down?” That sounds oddly American-centric. By our standards of reporting, everything the Japanese say must sound “played down.” Maybe Nishiyama just told the truth as he knew it and left it at that.

Although the Times, especially reporter Matt Wald, have done a very good job with this story since it began, the Gray Lady seems to be struggling a bit to fill column inches with it. Not bad, but a little distended.


The Washington Post leads with radiation found in the waters off Fukushima:

Radioactivity levels soared in the seawater outside the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, safety officials reported Saturday, igniting fresh concerns about the spread of highly radioactive material and the risks involved in completing an already dangerous job.

A little hyped, but okay. I don’t think anyone doubted from the first day of this situation that there were not risks involved in completing the job. Unlike the Times today, the Post aims to track positive progress as well as worrisome developments:

As of Saturday, some signs of progress were evident at the plant: Fresh water was being pumped in to cool the first three nuclear reactors, rather than seawater, which can ultimately impair the cooling process. And the lights were turned on in the control room of the second reactor.

I believe only Unit 4 lacks lighting now.  The Post then runs over the event of the last few days.


The Los Angeles Times also leads with seawater:

Radioactivity levels are soaring in seawater near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant, Japan's nuclear safety agency said Saturday, two weeks after the nuclear power plant was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

“Are soaring” or “have soared?” We won’t really know until more readings are taken and hopefully, they will come down. But, okay.

The L.A. Times quotes Nishiyama, but instead of commenting on his underplaying the news, tries an opinion:

Despite that reassurance, the disclosure may well heighten international concern over Japanese seafood exports.

Which is true – it may or it may not. And that’s about it for L.A. Times, which reviews the last few days in a couple of paragraphs and ends. This struck me as almost curious, as Los Angeles is, of the three cities, closest to Japan. But sticking to the facts as known at the moment and moving on seems a good approach to the news of the day. I’ll take it.

It’s a newsboy.

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