Below are some resources that may be of interest/use in relation to the disaster in Japan, including advice for journalists, fact sheets on radiation and risk perception more broadly, and some historical context from the Three Mile Island accident of 1979.
From the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma
• Gavin Rees, a journalist and filmmaker who heads the Dart Centre Europe, based in London, looks at cultural and historical factors likely to influence Japan’s response to the disaster.
• Yoichi Shimatsu, an environmental issues writer and former editor of the Japan Times Weekly and a contributor to New America Media, has compiled some comprehensive advice for journalists about how to prepare for travel to Japan and how to keep safe while reporting on the earthquake, tsunami and damaged nuclear plants.
One of the recommendations is:
Call around to pharmacies in your home country to purchase sufficient potassium iodine capsules for five-to-ten people for a month. The extra capsules are needed for your translators and drivers, as well as a good-will gesture to your local sources. Your thyroid gland absorbs iodine, and these pills help to block radioactive iodine-131. At the pharmacy also pick up some Imodium and nasal inhalant or gel (Vicks type), the latter to help reduce the foul smell of corpses, which wears down your morale.
• The Dart Center also is circulating this list of links to relevant articles and resources in English and Japanese for those covering the Japan disaster.
Fact sheets on the health effects of radiation
• From the US Environmental Protection Agency
Background information about radiation measurement and exposure
• This post from the Harvard Health Letter editor, Peter Wehrwein, explains how radiation exposure is measured and how the doses from common medical procedures compare with those from environmental exposure.
• An overview of the factors that influence how people perceive risk, from the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University. For example:
The more we trust the people informing us about a risk, the less afraid we are. The more we trust the process used in deciding whether we will be exposed to a hazard, the less afraid we are. When we trust the agency or company exposing us to the risk, we are less afraid. When we trust government agencies that are supposed to be protecting us, we are less afraid. The less we trust the people informing us, the people protecting us, or the process determining our exposure to a risk, the more afraid we are.
A useful Twitter source
What can we learn from Three Mile Island?
• Martha Shirk, a reporter at the not-for-profit online publication in Missouri, The St. Louis Beacon, reflects on her experiences covering the accident at Three Mile Island in Central Pennsylvania 32 years ago. You can also download a PDF of the 1979 investigation: The President’s Commission on the Accident at Three Mile Island.
A Washington Post report on the risks to reporters, and how these are being managed in the US.