Saturday, October 18, 2003

Calling all honest journalists

Spoons would like to meet you. I predict that this will happen about the same time the Cubs finally win a World Series.

I wish I could disagree with him about journalists. But I saw the way a number of different newspapers covered nuclear power issues and incidents and I haven't seen any evidence that the truth mattered any. But even if they simply made errors, you'd think that once in a while such an error would present the operators, utilities and industry in a positive light.

Once I was even naive enough to try to do something about what I was charitable enough to consider an error. One Saturday the Bloomington, IL Pantagraph printed a story about rate increases requested by the local utility to help pay for their newly operational nuclear power plant. I'm not sure I recall all the details correctly, but in essence the rate increase was to be implemented over 10 years in steps of $X, leading to a net difference of $10X in the 10th year.

Now for something technical, well, I realize that not everyone is an engineer like me. But I would expect an elementary school kid to be able to transcribe numbers from a public regulatory document correctly, and if the Pantagraph didn't have access to that then just what the hell was the basis for their reporting? Anyway, the paper presented the increase as $10X dollar increase every year, which is so far off as to tax the limits of mere incompetence.

I called the Pantagraph and told them of the error. They stood by their story, claiming that there was no error. They did the same when I went there in person a bit later, acting as if it were my word against theirs, and who understood these big numbers anyway?

Yes, I went there in person. Why? Because shortly after this idiocy, the rate increase was denied, the utility had layoffs, and all of a sudden I had a lot more free time.

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