Reporting Three Mile Island: Reassurance Scarce, Credible Information Worse

TMI Notebook frontThirty-five years ago this week, a spokesman for the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant announced that radioactive gas from one of two reactors on an island in the Susquehanna River had been released.

The next day, I was in Harrisburg, PA, a reporter from the Rutland Herald’s Vermont Press Bureau sent 400 miles down I-87 to Harrisburg, Pa. to report the story. It was a typical move for an operation that consistently punched above its weight class. Nuclear power had become a huge issue in New England and my having zero experience reporting on the technology didn’t matter to my editor. Continue reading

One Last Time for Fred

I think this is the last time I will think about Fred Phelps for a long while. I’ve only written about him one time, back when the Supreme Court was considering restricting the access he and his followers had to picket funerals. I said yes, the Court said no. My point was the same as my favorite constitutional lawyer Walter Dellinger – picketing funerals is a deliberate attempt to incite violence, not a form of protected speech.

The families of the deceased agreed as well, most of them the loved ones of service members, though the Phelps crew picketed almost randomly; schools, Billy Graham appearances, the funerals of Bob Hope and Fred Rogers.

At funerals, it wasn’t just picketing. Imagine vicious interruptions of solemn services with chants of hatred against your Dad or brother or son or daughter, with your grandmother in tears. It was less an invitation to violence than a dare.

I had that perspective on Phelps and more. Continue reading