Newspaper: Evening Sentinel
Date: April 2, 1979
Title: Let Us Proceed with the Truth
Pennsylvania should be lauded for their calmness in the face of an incredible breakdown in the dissemination of information over the crisis at Three Mile Island.
Granted, there never has been an emergency quite like this one, but all agencies involved-including the national news media-can be cited for irresponsibility in confusing the general public over just what is going on.
Metropolitan Edison Company and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission share initial blame. As late as Saturday, four days after the problem developed, Met-Ed and the NRC still were issuing conflicting statements, this time over the gas bubble which perils getting the damaged nuclear reactor into a cold shutdown mode.
People don’t know what to believe. It’s a wonder there hasn’t been general panic. In this tense atmosphere, NBC made it even worse by announcing a general evacuation order was imminent. Local television stations had to go to great lengths to say that just wasn’t true. No general evacuation order ahs been given.
In this situation, the entire news media is at the mercy of those in control at Three Mile Island. Until Met-Ed and the NRC agreed to consolidate their announcements, general confusion reigned. The NRC should, at the very least, have moved its general information office to Middletown immediately instead of waiting until this weekend. “Experts” were making statements out of Washington and elsewhere far removed from the actual events at Three Mile Island, adding to the misinformation.
Compounding the problem is the fact that nuclear proponents and opponents are speaking out whenever possible. Everybody’s taking a shot as to what this all means. While their concerns are justified, the impact on the general public has to be a consideration. These statements could cause more anxiety and alarm than the actual events themselves.
President Carter realized the extent of the problem when he said Sunday he personally would bear the responsibility to inform the American people about the incident.
The news media is not without blame. The crush of reporters and cameramen at Middletown is getting to be unbearable. Residents who moved to Hersheypark Arena have been treated as victims in a fishbowl; everybody wants an interview or a picture.
Thus far this crisis has taken on the appearances of a three-ring circus. Dangerous days still lie ahead; it behooves everyone to present the truth about what is happening at Three Mile Island and to proceed with orderly announcements of an evacuation, should that order indeed be given.