March 15th, 2011 – Responding to inaccurate information in the news media – HELP CORRECT INACCURATE AND/OR MISLEADING NEWS REPORTS

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From: ANS Broadcasts [[email protected]]
Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 10:38 PM
To: Ramsey, Kevin
Subject: ANS Public Information: Japan Nuclear Reactors

Attachments: Fact React 1 .pdf; Responding to inaccurate information in the news media.pdf


Dear ANS Member,
Many of you have told us you are frustrated when you see someone on TV, in a newspaper, or the Internet, claiming to be a “nuclear expert” sharing inaccurate and misleading information about the situation in Japan or nuclear energy generally.

You can do something about it!

We have established Japanfactscans.orq to serve as a centralized communications email address for ANS member communications to ANS Headquarters on the Japan situation. ANS staff will make sure the proper person gets your email.


There is an URGENT NEED for ANS members who can serve as media contacts. The need is particularly urgent for experts on radiation and human health effects, but we are also seeking people who can speak to reactor design and operation, licensing and safety issues, and crisis response activities.

Email Japanfactsans.orpq with MEDIA in the subject line-include your name, city/state, phone numbers, area of expertise, and any additional information you think we should know


Directly engage local news media when you read, hear, or view reports that contain technical information about nuclear energy topics that are not factually correct. See the guidance document attached that provides some “rules of the road” for talking with the news media.

Inform the ANS Public Information Committee about what you’ve communicated to the news media and the outcome, if any. Send your reports to Japanfacts(,ans.orq with FACT REACT in the subject line.

Ask for help if you need it. We have cadre of specialists in TV, print and social media who are talking round the clock on how to best address news media coverage of the situation in Japan. Email with HELP in the subject line.


Email them to Japanfacts(cans.orq with JAPAN in the subject line.


ANS continues to provide a news aggregation service on the ANS Nuclear Cafe blogsite at http://ansnuclearcafe.orq/. I urge you to share this link with friends, colleagues, and your social networks.

The ANS Professional Divisions are currently engaged in an urgent effort to develop talking points on the Japan situation for distribution to members. Additionally, ANS-HQ will be providing a periodic update of communications efforts under a ‘What’s New’ link at http://www.ans.orq/.

Thank you all for your efforts in supporting the nuclear community during these challenging times. Our professional responsibility is to provide credible information based on the information on hand, realizing that this information may be incomplete and/or evolving.


Candace Davison
Chair, ANS Public Information Committee

Dan Yurman
Social Media rep, Public Information Committee
Email: Twitter: @djysrv
Mobile: 208-521-5726

Laura Scheele
American Nuclear Society
Communications & Outreach
Email: lscheeieaans.orq Twitter: @lscheele
Phone: (708) 579-8224

Responding to inaccurate information in the news media

Take it as a given that in dealing with the technical complexities of the nuclear crisis in Japan, the mainstream news media is going to make mistakes. You can do something about it, but you must use proven methods to do so.

It is OK to reach out to local or national news media using email or telephone, but don’t hit the keyboard or keypad before you assemble the facts.

First, ask yourself, “am I technically qualified to really address this issue?” Assuming the answer is yes, assemble a brief set of one-liners that explain your expertise. Use plain English.

Next, tackle the issue at hand. What’s factually wrong with the news media report? What facts are needed to make it correct?

Assemble the facts in a rough order of descending order of importance. Keep an eye on the big picture. Do not get wrapped up in hair splitting details.

Write your response using the active voice and in talking points format. Remember, general assignment reporters will not follow detailed technical arguments. You must keep it simple.

Be sure to include your contact information and a summary of your expertise at the end of the talking points.

Once you have your talking points prepared, you are ready to contact the reporter or their editor by email or phone.

How talk to a journalist

Do not argue with a journalist. Stick to the facts.

Communicating with journalists makes a difference. It does not have to be perfect. When you write to journalists, be factual, not rhetorical. Do not personally attack them; that’s more likely to convince them that they’re in the right. Address them in the language that most journalists are trained to understand – plain English.

Remember, you are responding as expert and viewer. You are NOT responding on behalf of ANS or your employer.

Please send us a copy of your emails or notes about telephone conversations (published and unpublished) to japanfact(

Writing letters to the editor

Letters that are intended for publication should usually be drafted more carefully. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Make one point (or at most two) in your letter, email, or fax. State the point clearly, ideally in the first sentence.

Make your letter timely. If you are not addressing a specific article, editorial or letter that recently appeared in the paper you are writing to, then try to tie the issue you want to write about to a recent event.

Familiarize yourself with the coverage and editorial position of the paper to which you are writing. Refute or support specific statements, address relevant facts that are ignored, but do avoid blanket attacks on the media in general or the newspaper in particular.

Check the letter specifications of the newspaper to which you are writing. Length and format requirements vary from paper to paper. (Generally, roughly two short paragraphs are ideal.) You also must include your name, signature, address and phone number.

Be sure to say something, even one sentence, about your technical expertise, in the letter. You can provide more but don’t expect it to be published.

Look at theletters that appear in your paper. Is a certain type of letter usually printed?

Support your facts. If the topic you address is controversial, consider sending documentation along with your letter. But don’t overload the editors with too much info.

Keep your letter brief. Type it whenever possible.

Find others to write letters when possible. This will show that other individuals in the community are concerned about the issue. If your letter doesn’t get published, perhaps someone else’s on the same topic will.

Monitor the paper for your letter. If your letter has not appeared within a week or two, follow up with a call to the editorial department of the newspaper.

An increasing number of broadcast news programs (60 Minutes, All Things Considered, etc.) also solicit and broadcast “letters to the editor.” Don’t forget these outlets.

Remember, you are responding as expert and viewer. You are NOT responding on behalf of ANS or your employer.

Please send us a copy of your letters (published and unpublished) to

How to Write an Op-Ed
Op-eds are longer than letters to the editor, and there is more competition for space. You may want to call the paper for length requirements (usually 600-800 words).

Try to write on a controversial issue being covered at that time. If you can use a professional title that suggests authority, do so. If you work for an organization, get permission to sign the op-ed as a representative of that organization.

Feel free to send it to papers far from where you live, but avoid sending it to two newspapers in the same “market.” (Sending to the San Francisco Examiner and the Seattle Times is OK, but not to the Examiner and the San Francisco Chronicle.)

“National” newspapers like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor and USA Today generally do not accept op-eds that are also being offered to other papers. But you can easily submit the same piece to five or ten local dailies in different regions-greatly increasing your chances of being published.

Assure the op-ed editor in your cover letter that the piece has not been submitted to any other paper in their market. If, on the other hand, you sent it to only one paper, let that paper know you are offering them an exclusive.

In writing op-eds, avoid excessive rhetoric. State the subject under controversy clearly. You are trying to persuade a middle-of-the-road readership. If you rely on facts not commonly found in mainstream media, cite your sources.

Try to think of a catchy title. If you don’t, the paper will be more likely to run its own-which may not emphasize your central message. (Even if you do write your own headline, don’t be surprised if it appears under a different one.)

Be prepared to shorten and re-submit your article as a letter to the editor in case it does not get accepted as an op-ed.

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