Date: Thu, 15 Dec 2011 13:52:45 -0500
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From: ILPI <info**At_Symbol_Here**ILPI.COM>
Subject: Re: Chemical Safety headlines from Google (13 articles)
In-Reply-To: <1B4D1665F78352429F7714A6540EB036076A6F79**At_Symbol_Here**>

Unless of course, you work for certain newspapers.

When I was in grad school, our group had an explosion/fire/injury lab accident.  Reporters were on scene almost the same time as the first responders, the local TV stations broke in with "fire and explosion reported at local school, more at 11" etc.    We were all told not to talk to the media (because of the miscommunication that takes place so routinely, not a coverup).

Anyway, the next day, a reporter from the Boston Herald showed up.  Just to clarify, the paper was owned by Rupert Murdoch at the time, and was run with the same tender sensitivities of say, The New York Post.  Total tabloid.

This reporter was the most weasel-like person I've ever seen.  Physically, I'm not kidding.  A couple whiskers and a tail were all that was missing.  They shot some photos of the lab through the police tape and then started asking "Did anyone see what happened?"

I was watching bemusedly, so I said that I had.  He asked "What happened? A girl was hurt?"  And I said "Apparently, some incompatible chemicals were mixed."  That wasn't very exciting, so he looked down dejectedly and then his face lit up as he asked "How about the girl, was she in pain, was she in PAIN?" with an expectant look on his face.  You have to understand the tone of his voice, it's that singsong rising like when we are expecting something good like "did you get it yet, did you get, huh, huh?"

I replied "Well, I really don't know how she felt, you'd have to ask her."  (She was in the burn ward at the time, so you can take a guess on how she felt).

Again, he was downcast and dejected.  Then his face lit up again as he asked, "Well, how did people react, was there panic, was there PANIC?" with that same eager ooo-I-hope-so intonation and eager look.

To which I replied "Actually, I think everyone responded in a highly professional manner consistent with their high level of training."

And with that he gave up and left.

Rob Toreki

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On Dec 15, 2011, at 11:07 AM, Ralph B Stuart wrote:

> This is rare.  Instead, most of what you read should just be looked at for three basic facts:  an accident occurred, when, and where
A related story of possible general interest:
I taught a HAZWOPER course to undergraduates for 10 years and the final exercise is a hands on event. One of the roles we assigned for the event was a reporter to ask the public's questions and then write a press release describing the event in lay terms, accurately.
One year, I chose a student at random for this role and she said "That's neat - my father's a reporter." I said "Good, so you know how to handle this situation.". And she said "Yes, the most important thing is not to panic the public".
That took me aback a bit, as I thought that writing an accurate story might come first, but after about 2 years of watching the google headlines, I agree with her interpretation of the paper's priorities. The primary role of many stories is to help people avoid traffic problems resulting from a hazmat event. Which is actually a pretty worthy goal during an event, both for the public and the people managing the scene=85
- Ralph
Ralph Stuart CIH
Laboratory Ventilation Specialist
Department of Environmental Health and Safety
Cornell University

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