Laying Blame – Nuclear Accidents

This article from the New York Times is a report about the Fukushima disaster and it tries to determine who was to blame.

The article does a good job of listing lots of critics and professors who “knew” the dangers before this disaster happened. However, the article had very few quotes from people defending the power station or the regulators. The article said the reporters tried to get in contact with the company but the company did not want to comment.

Without quotes from the company or government regulators, the piece seems very one sided and it gives support to the critics.


My question:

Should a reporter strive to cover both sides of a story even if one side refuses to talk?

If so, how should a reporter go about this?








4 Responses to “Laying Blame – Nuclear Accidents”

  1. The reporter should always try to cover both sides of the story. This simply gives the audience a broader perspective and better understanding of the topic. The author at least mentions the motives of the company – that safety precautions would have been very costly. Like any business, the large nuclear plant was trying to conserve as much money as possible, yet they should possess the ethics of safety first. It is not the companies’ job to speak to reporters. If the company refuses to talk, the best the reporter can do is contact individuals directly, such as the “industry insiders.” Even if the company as a whole feels one way about an issue, there is always a chance that individuals within the company do not feel the same way. If the reporter can insure the “insiders” safety and keep them anonymous, people would probably like for their opinion to be heard.

    Jonelle Doctor
    152 words

  2. This question reminded me right away of the man from the BBC we had in class the other day. He said that sometimes if a side of the argument thinks he is too biased they won’t talk to him, which he seemed fine with. Personally, I find trouble with that, however, I understand when people just do not want to give their thoughts. As a reporter you should always give both sides of an argument, even if you completely disagree with them. A reader should never be able to tell your opinion on a subject, because a reporter is there to give the news and facts, not be a pundit.
    If someone does not want to talk then it is the reporter’s job to first try every way to get them to reconsider, but then if it doesn’t work, try to best represent what you know about them. It should also be noted in the piece that the person/company did not want to comment. That way they can’t say you didn’t even try.

    Lauren Blanchard

  3. Adding direct quotes from the industry standpoint could have definitely made this a stronger story– though the author summarizes industry statements, they are mostly broad and often negative ideas. The insight from the “insiders” is great but it’s not the whole story.

    A quote which reflected on the challenges of maintaining nuclear power would have put this into a greater, less biased context.

    It would have been particularly interesting if the reporter interviewed individuals from Tepco about the stresses of the power industry and why they might feel pressure to continue “business as usual” without heeding the warnings of advisors. You hear from the “insiders” about this happening, but no statements about why this might happen from the leaders. Recently, there’s been discussion on Japanese citizens’ loss of faith in nuclear power (, and it might be the case that until last year, pressure on Japanese power companies from consumers pushed for steady production at a low cost — the drive from consumers may have encouraged the nuclear industry to produce more and regulate less to provide consumers with the product they wanted.

    w.c. 183


  4. Hello. Your teacher invited me to take a look at this blog. Thanks for the comments on my article. But to be frank, I think there is a mistaken assumption in the original posting that started this thread. In fact, my story does quote a spokesman for plant operator Tepco, Takeo Iwamoto. I also spoke with a half dozen current and former nuclear regulators, whose views I summarized at two or three points in the story. True, I don’t quote them all by name, but I don’t think that is always necessary in a newspaper story. By the same token, nor do I quote all of the critics: I spoke with another dozen whistleblowers who are also not cited by name, but whose views are summarized. Partly, this is a matter of style — I like to limit my qoutes to people who have something extra, either personal or emotional, to add to a story. I also want to avoid a mechanical back and forth between one side and the other, the sort of he-said-she-said that makes the article feel like a Wimbledon match. This may be my personal sense as a writer, but I find such articles have a tediously mechanical, connect-the-dots feeling to them. Summarizing can be an effective way to move a reader forward to the more interesting revelations in the story. Also, a bit of the background story on this article: in this particular story, I faced a rather severe space constraint. I originally wrote the piece at about twice its final length, but then had to take a chain saw to it to fit it into the paper, including slicing out entire anecdotes that took several interviews to get. That meant I could only keep the most telling and poignant passages, with the less compelling, more rote parts of the story inevitably falling to the cutting-room floor.

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