Josef Oehmen, whose post “Why I am Not Concerned about Japan’s Nuclear Reactors” was posted March 13th and which quickly went viral, is revisiting his original piece, which is again being hosted by Brave New Climate. The comments are particularly interesting. Dr. Oehmen’s follow-up piece,  the title suggests, is about the media and how readers decide whether a piece of writing is trustworthy or not.

I haven’t read it, and don’t intend to. Who cares, at this stage, with the Fukushima crisis still critical (!), whether Dr. Oehmen thinks his original article was believable or not?

Personally, I was very pleased to read Dr. Oehmen’s original article. Although I was a little sceptical of the upbeat optimism, I was very glad for the detailed, technical information because it provided me with a framework of reference within which I could place the info coming from the TV and newspapers. I live in Japan and have friends and relatives in Tokyo, and I was very worried. This article helped calm me down, but I did not become complacent or stop watching the news. Over the following days, the Japanese TV pundits came out and explained all the things that Dr. Oehmen had explained. It was satisfying and calming to see them repeating or confirming much of what he had written, but following the story since the beginning has been an emotional roller-coaster ride.

The day after I read the Oehmen article, I got a call from a friend who lives in Tokyo and wanted to leave. He seemed very worried indeed, and I mentioned the Oehmen article. He said he’d come across it, but dismissed it because it seemed so positive!

On Sunday, March 13, my cousin in Japan posted an email I had written to him on his blog in the early morning at 3am EST. The email explained the context of nuclear physics and engineering, as well as discussed the events at the Daiichi-1 reactor until that point. It also featured my very strong opinion that they are safe. By lunchtime, it was the second most twittered site on the internet (you can read the whole story at http://bit.ly/e1It0T). At the end of the day, it had been translated into more than 9 languages (often multiple times), and after 48 hours had been read by several million people. Two weeks into my unwanted and luckily rapidly cooling off Web 2.0 stardom, I have begun working through the trauma and reflecting. Thanks for sharing, you might think. But one question in particular came up that also has some general relevance:

Would I have believed myself if I came across that blog and had no prior knowledge of nuclear physics and engineering? Or asked another way: How do you judge the quality of TV, radio, print and internet news reporting on topics that you are only superficially familiar with?

via Josef Oehmen and Fukushima – Would I have believed myself? « BraveNewClimate.

Dr. Oehmen, who cares? Perhaps once this crisis is safely behind us, assuming it has a happy ending, I might have the luxury to read your follow-up article, but not today.

I haven’t read all the (to date, 61) comments yet, but I was most impressed with this one by Francois Manchon:

Thank you so much Josef for putting together your original text. And many thanks again to Barry for his incredible information compilation task.

When the mass media talk about some topic that I *really* know of, I am very often struck by the blatant errors, simplifications, misunderstandings and superficial explanations. Of course, some journalists do better, but the whole media business is about making audience. I can understand why they prefer spectacular titles such as “the Fukushima nuclear plant is out of control” (yes, I read this) rather than facts.

Josef, your text was a crystal clear explanation of what happened. I would only blame the overly optimistic point of view: your text is clearly written to ensure the readers that they are safe. That is perfectly acceptable for a private communication. For a public post it opens the way to the attacks which you experienced.

Dogs bark, the caravan goes on. Please keep up the great job

There are even better ones further down on the BNC blog.


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