One of my favorite pastimes is listening to Adam Curry and John C. Dvorak, who bill themselves as “media assassins”, on the No Agenda Show. On yesterday’s episode, number 580, John and Adam spent about 15 minutes (starting at about 1:44:00) discussing the absurd tales that are propagating around the web regarding USS Ronald Reagan sailors who were supposedly harmed by emissions and “fallout” from Fukushima and about explosions occurring deep underground the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station that are supposedly being ignored by the press.
Adam recommended Hiroshima Syndrome as a good source of accurate information about the real situation regarding the clean-up activities at the site and for a truthful interpretation of the hyped story about health problems reported by a small portion of the 5,500 sailors that were on board the USS Ronald Reagan in the days immediately after the Great North East Japan earthquake and tsunami. (See Fukushima Commentary entry for Jan 3, 2014.)
Fukushima has been one of biggest recent topics of discussion on certain “alternative” media sites. According to the stories that are being passed around, inflated, and spun into tall tales, the mainstream media is ignoring all kinds of catastrophic events, the government is ordering potassium iodide tablets and everyone should start making plans to evacuate the US west coast – or the entire northern hemisphere in certain extreme cases.
The Internet is full of alternative media sites that claim to be telling stories that are ignored by the “mainstream media”. They seek to attract the attention of people who have good reasons for being disenchanted with commercial media outlets that often seem more interested in selling cars, pharmaceutical products, gadgets, and fossil fuels than informing the public about events important to their lives.
However, many “alternative media” sites are run by people that are ill-informed, unprofessional, and seeking to frighten people into buying nostrums, seeds, and survival gear. Many of them never learned how to spell or to construct articulate sentences.
On the No Agenda Show, which is a real alternative to the ad-supported media, Curry bills himself as a crackpot (Dvorak is nicknamed Buzzkill). Curry occasionally offers some pretty bizarre, but entertaining, stories, but both Curry and Dvorak are career media professionals who have a skeptically realistic understanding of the way that media company decision makers determine what makes a good story.
Adam has a rather unique way of getting to the bottom of interesting stories; he reads boring documents like proposed legislation, treaties, and specification sheets. He frequently claims that he is just a DJ who dropped out of college after his first semester, but he is obviously a voracious and insatiably curious reader.
John and Adam also have first hand knowledge of the way that media decision makers choose to distract their audiences from a story that is important to the public but harmful to their interests or those of their advertisers, especially politicians. More than any commercial media outlet, No Agenda reminds listeners of the fact that most of the big money that infuses the American political enterprise finds its way into the budgets of the commercial media.
Unlike mainstream media outlets, the No Agenda Show operates with a unique “value for value” business model inspired by Curry’s appreciation of the works of Ayn Rand. The show does not run ads, but the stars think it is a bad idea for anyone to work for free. Instead, John and Adam ask their listeners to produce the show in the same way that producers fund Hollywood style entertainment.
Producers get recognized for their contributions by being credited on the show; anyone who provides a donation in excess of $50 gets their name mentioned in the donation segment of the show. Large donors get inducted into a peerage club with ranks modeled after European royalty. (I’m Sir Atomic Rod, a Knight of the No Agenda round table; I earned that title while I was an engineer/analyst drawing a good salary.)
Frequent Atomic Insights visitors know that I am no fan of the way that the advertiser-supported media covers nuclear energy topics, and I have often spoken about the way that financial motives related to ad budgets sway coverage about energy events. Atomic Insights has been taking advantage of the low cost and wide distribution publishing capability of the Internet since 1995 to provide an alternative to the standard fare offered by the commercial press about nuclear energy related topics.
Though nowhere near as refined as the No Agenda model, Atomic Insights implemented a financial model designed to provide resources for continued improvements and growth while keeping the site relatively ad-free. (We occasionally partner with industry conference organizers and have been known to promote selected specific events or initiatives.)
There is a strong justification for deciding to attempt to provide information about atomic energy that is not filtered by financial interests in specific products or projects. Despite all word to the contrary that you might find on sites critical of my work, Atomic Insights is not funded by the nuclear industry or by specific nuclear enterprises.
I have not taken a vow of poverty; John Dvorak is absolutely correct about the fact that no one should work for free. I gladly accept paid speaking engagements, write articles for hire, provide specific consulting services in my areas of expertise, and appreciate all those who have decided to subscribe to this blog, the Atomic Show and the periodic newsletter that will start going out by the end of this month. I’m also grateful that I have developed friendships with people who live in places that I need to visit; spare bedrooms and home-cooked meals have helped me keep travel costs under control.
The best advice I can give anyone that seeks information but is confused about whom to trust is to maintain a questioning attitude. Consider the sources, follow the money, confirm stories with experts, and pay attention to seemingly minor details like spelling, editing and sentence structure. Don’t expect perfection, but it might be a good idea to distrust material that would earn a D or an F from any English teacher.
In many ways, that advice is not unlike the advice that good IT staffs provide people who are trying to figure out how to detect phishing or other types of spam email.