September 06, 2005

Since that is the only part of the story many people read, I compile here a global collection of English-language headlines on the United Nations report on Chernobyl ("Chernobyl's Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts"), courtesy of Google (news). Different regions, different story focus, different tones, different headlines: even if often the same verbage (Reuters, AP, UPI). I don't claim for this list to be exhaustive: but I did try for a full 24-hours of on-line English-language coverage. Within each set, I've divided stories by geography rather than chronologically.

All other things being equal: what conclusions would readers of only the headlines of the following stories be likely to come to?

Factual: but emphasising largest possible numbers
Factual: but emphasising smallest possible numbers ***
Interpretive: upplaying
Interpretive: downplaying
Interpretive: epidemiology and biostatistics
Interpretive: reaction
Interpretive: the human perspective

* Spero is a unique on-line news compiler that accepts articles from everyone ... sometimes with interesting results.

** I include "so far" under "factual" because the report did give two major numbers, and "so far" acknowledges that the report itself states that death toll is expected to rise significantly.

*** In addition to the reduction in some cases to "50" from the report's "56", the word "just" also moves these headlines into the realm of "downplaying".

**** This one uniquely shifts the responsibility for the perception of downplaying onto the expert authors of the report.

***** The reference is to environmental activists in the Ukraine.

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