New York Times Quietly Edits Article About Fukushima Evacuation

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    Shortly after the beginning of the Fukushima Daiichi crisis, the government recommended that residents living 20 to 30 kilometers from nuclear plant avoid going outside because of the possible threat of radiation leaks from the plant. A lot of people in that area decided to leave anyway, but some stayed behind. Those who remained are finding life difficult – not because of deadly radiation, but because it is extremely difficult for them to obtain basic necessities such as food and water.

    With the crisis dragging on, it doesn’t seem very practical to expect these people to stay indoors forever without access to food. Yesterday, the government announced at a press conference that it was advising residents in the 20 to 30 kilometer zone to voluntarily evacuate.

    Here’s N-H-K’s report about the announcement:

    The government is advising residents to voluntarily evacuate areas within 20 to 30 kilometers of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, in view of the severe living conditions in the zone.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters on Friday that business and distribution in these areas has been harshly disrupted, as an increasing number of people have voluntarily evacuated.

    Edano also said he cannot deny the possibility that the government will expand the evacuation zone to a 30-kilometer radius from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, depending on radiation levels.

    The government has instructed people living within 20 kilometers of the plant to evacuate, while advising those who are 20 to 30 kilometers away to stay indoors.

    Edano said the government has asked municipalities within the 20 to 30 kilometer radius to call on residents to voluntarily evacuate, and to make preparations to evacuate those who remain.

    He said he wants the municipalities to closely cooperate with the government, and to be ready when evacuation orders are issued.

    The main spokesman of the government makes an announcement before reporters from all the nation’s major news outlets. Pretty easy to understand, right?

    Unfortunately, that’s not the story that was reported in one of America’s most-respected newspapers. The New York Times apparently needed to add some extra fear and distrust to its article about the announcement:

    Japan Quietly Evacuating a Wider Radius From Reactors

    By David Jolly, Hiroko Tabuchi & Keith Bradsher

    TOKYO – Japanese officials began quietly encouraging people to evacuate a larger swath of territory around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Friday, a sign that they hold little hope that the crippled facility will soon be brought under control.

    The authorities said they would now assist people who want to leave the area from 12 to 19 miles outside the crippled plant and said they were now encouraging “voluntary evacuation” from the area. Those people had been advised March 15 to remain indoors, while those within a 12-mile radius of the plant had been ordered to evacuate.

    The United States has recommended that its citizens stay at least 50 miles away from the plant.

    Speaking to a national audience at a news conference Friday night to mark the two weeks since the magnitude 9.0 quake and the devastating tsunami that followed it, Prime Minister Naoto Kan dodged a reporter’s question about whether the government was ordering a full evacuation, saying officials were simply following the recommendation of the Japan Nuclear Safety Commission.

    Shortly after the article appeared online, it was submitted to Reddit, where several users ripped on it:

    “quietly? minister announcing it on TV is quietly?” – sladegen


    “We’re evacuating people at a larger distance from the reactor. Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone.”

    “Sir, this is a press conference. You’re being broadcast live around the world.”

    “Oh. So that’s how all this secret information keeps getting out!”

    -IGotLaserCannons

    “Stop the sensationalism. Go to news sources reporting this without the fear mongering, mistranslation, and misinformation.

    http://english.kyodonews.jp/

    The reason they’re asking people to voluntarily evacuate? Not because of radiation, but because they are worried that daily necessities might not be supplied to the region – ie, they’re worried grocery stores might not be getting stock. That sort of thing.” -cthalupa

    Later, the headline and content of the article suddenly changed. It now reads as follows:

    Japan Encourages a Wider Evacuation From Reactor Area

    By HIROKO TABUCHI, KEITH BRADSHER and DAVID JOLLY
    Published: March 25, 2011

    TOKYO — New signs emerged Friday that parts of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were so damaged and contaminated that it would be even harder to bring the plant under control soon.

    At the same time, Japanese officials began encouraging people to evacuate a larger band of territory around the complex.

    Speaking to a national audience at a news conference on Friday night, two weeks after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and the devastating tsunami that followed it, Prime Minister Naoto Kan dodged a reporter’s question about whether the government was ordering a full evacuation, saying officials were simply following the recommendation of the Japan Nuclear Safety Commission.

    No notice was posted on the article page explaining that it had been edited. How’s that for quietly?

    Update: Eido Inoue asked Hiroko Tabuchi about the edit, and got the following response on Twitter.

    The article page itself still contains no notices about edits or errors.

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