Units related to radiation exposure and radioactivity in mass media : the Fukushima case study in Europe and Russia
Faculty of Social Sciences. Political Sciences
Radiation protection dosimetry. - Ashford
, p. 154-159
Using an analysis of the way European newspapers covered the Fukushima nuclear accident, this article explores how the mass media transmit information about radiation risks from experts to the general public. The study applied a media content analysis method on a total of 1340 articles from 12 leading newspapers in 6 countries: Belgium (N = 260), Italy (N = 270), Norway (N = 133), Russia (N = 172), Slovenia (N = 190) and Spain (N = 315). All articles analysed were selected as being directly or indirectly related to the Fukushima accident by containing the word nuclear and/or Fukushima and were published between the 11th March and the 11th May 2011. The data presented here focus specifically on a cross-cultural comparison of the way the media use quantitative units. Results suggest that although experts are accustomed to communicating about radiological risks in technical language, often using quantitative units to describe the risks, mass media do not tend to use these units in their reporting. Although the study found a large variation in the measurement units used in different countries, it appeared that journalists in all the analysed countries preferred to describe radioactivity by comparing different radiation exposures, rather than reporting the actual measured units. The paper concludes with some practical guidelines for sound public communication about radiation risks.