Open NRC – SEJ’s comments
Idea Categories – Transparency, Public Participation, and Collaboration
These suggestions are from the Society of Environmental Journalists, the organization that represents reporters, producers, editors, photographers, and others who cover environmental issues for news media. News media are still the principal channel through which most Americans get their information about energy and the environment issues. Without transparency to the media, there can be no transparency to the public.
NRC generally does a fairly good job of being open and accessible to the media. NRC’s public information officers are knowledgeable of decisions and the decision making process, and are willing to arrange interviews with relevant experts, even on deadline. But there is room for improvement.
Specifically we urge the NRC to:
1. End the practice that prevents NRC scientists or employees from talking to reporters without press office permission and a press officer present.
2. Have informed press officers available during extended hours for real-time response to news media questions, including journalists’ complete working day on the West coast. Journalists have to do news 24/7, and we need access to authoritative information, position statements, and reactions.
3. Provide weekend updates, especially when information is released or there is breaking news late Thursday or on Friday.
4. When possible, time dissemination of news/information to make sure it does not miss opportunities to be taken up promptly and fully into the news cycle. When news events or releases can be predicted or planned, this means earlier in the week (not late Friday) and giving advisories as far as possible (days) ahead-of-time to the largest feasible group. When a press officer promises to get back to a reporter with an answer or interview, it should come within hours, not weeks.
5. Make NRC commissioners and Atomic Safety and Licensing board members available to the press.
6. Use less industry jargon in explaining complex technical issues to the media.
7. Develop a less cumbersome, easy to navigate electronic library for technical documents.
8. Replace the color-coded grading system for performance, equipment, and operations with a short, easy-to-understand written synopsis. The color-coded system is so broad it is almost meaningless.
9. Improve press office inclusiveness to include routinely a broader spectrum of media types that make up today’s changing news media landscapes. While big national news organizations may get more attention, NRC also needs to communicate well with regional, state, and local media as well as with specialty press, trade press, online media, freelance journalists, minority press, small broadcast outlets and others.