Our readers will recall that last week we forwarded a note to some editors at the Associated Press concerning some irregularities I identified in a story that ran earlier in the week that contained a claim from anti-nuclear activist Arnie Gundersen that soil samples he took in Tokyo would be classified as low level radioactive waste in the U.S.
Late on Friday afternoon we received a one line answer from Cara Rubinsky, the AP's New England Editor: "We have reviewed your concerns and obtained a copy of the report from the lab that did the testing. We do not believe a correction is warranted."
Considering the details we shared in our message to the AP, the response seemed less than adequate. Here's the latest note I shared this morning with Rubinsky, AP Editor Evan Berland and reporter Dave Gram.
Hi Cara,As always, we'll keep you informed as to what happens next here.
Please forgive me if I find your response to be insufficient, and hardly in the spirit or the letter of your organization's own published standards. In fact, your reluctance to provide precise details in response to my query raises more questions than it answers. With this in mind, I have several follow up questions that I must insist you answer:
1. Which laboratory performed the testing on the soil samples? Are you planning on publishing the lab report? Will you share the precise results with your readers? If not, why not? Why didn't the AP provide the precise results in your initial report?
2. How did Dave Gram go about reporting the original story? Did he obtain the lab report from Arnie Gundersen before he wrote the story, or did he simply rely on the statements that Gundersen made in the video posted at the web site of Fairewinds Associates?
3. Once you obtained the lab report, how did you go about verifying Gundersen's claims? Did Gram verify the results of the lab tests before the story was published, or did your team simply attempt to verify them after the fact once we had lodged our complaint? Your one line response to our initial query seems to imply that this might have been the case.
4. Did you consult a health physicist or other radiation protection professional at any time in the course of your reporting? If not, why not?
5. Why didn't you disclose Gundersen's role as a paid consultant for the state of Vermont? Were you and your reporter aware that Gundersen was being compensated for his work there? Other public reports claim that Gundersen is paid somewhere between $185 and $300 per hour for his work. Don't your readers deserve to know this in order for them to fully evaluate his claims?
I look forward to a more constructive response.
Senior Manager, Web Communications
Nuclear Energy Institute