[ RadSafe ] Teaching Reporters about Radiation and Radioactive Materials

Roger Helbig rwhelbig at gmail.com
Fri Apr 20 07:20:49 CDT 2012

I was culling some copies of old e-mail files to make room in my
laptop's hard drive and I saved a number of them - this one was in
reply to a suggestion I made in January 2006 and given the
misinformation that abounds on Fukushima, I thought that it is still
very germane today.  Thank you, Susan.

Roger Helbig

I've had discussions with a number of reporters about how they handle
scientific/technical controversies.  They don't try to report the
facts--most of them don't have the training to distinguish what the
facts are.  They report the controversy, and they look for quotes from
people on both sides of it.  They are always interested in getting
information from a subject-matter expert, so the best thing is to
develop a working relationship with the reporters in your area and let
them know you are available to be consulted (and quoted) in your field
of expertise.

If you are called, try to respond with pithy sound-bites or quotable
quotes that have enough substance to support your point.  A lengthy
technical explanation will never be published, and you run the risk of
having a statement quoted out of context.  What is best is if you can
respond to questions via e-mail - if you write well and can keep it
brief and to an 8th grade readership level, you may get your entire
quote published.  I've done a good bit of writing for my reporter
friends this way!

Susan Gawarecki

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