In 2011 on the twelfth of September a minor industrial accident happened in a French nuclear waste disposal facility. Barely half a year after the tragedy at Fukushima, the event understandably evoked a considerable attention. The first message was only a few sentences long, it announced the accident, but did not reveal any details on the circumstances, nevertheless it drew attention to the possible dangers. This short announcement have been adopted from the French media by the press worldwide including the Hungarian news portals. However, while on the French web (and following it, all over the world) soon after a more detailed announcement was made, along with the authorities’ reassuring announcement on the lack of radiation danger and radioactive leak, the Hungarian news portals still presented only the first, disconcerting news for hours. When more detailed information became available, it was far from satisfactory. The articles that appeared on the various news portals were teeming with elementary translation faults, misuses of technical terms like mixing up the concepts of “nuclear reactor”, “nuclear power plant”, “nuclear facility”, the merging of chemical and nuclear explosions, uncalled-for provocations of the public opinion and shady political indications. On the next day the news were updated, augmented with the more or less accurate translations of publications from the press worldwide, but the earlier, mistranslated, poorly worded or otherwise misguiding parts remained in the texts. After the further update on the contents of the portals, the entire communicational fiasco could be reconstructed with a bit of “archaeological” work, the analysis of previous news versions, titles and links. Since Hungary is in the path of the winds coming from the direction of France, a serious panic could have followed the fake news about the released radioactive cloud. This case keenly highlights the questions regarding the professional skills and responsibility of those working in the field of public information.

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Public Communication of Science and Technology

 

Brief and social responsibility
Case study on the hungarian interpretation of a “sensitive” scientific news

Andrea Kiraly   Eötvös University

In 2011 on the twelfth of September a minor industrial accident happened in a French nuclear waste disposal facility. Barely half a year after the tragedy at Fukushima, the event understandably evoked a considerable attention. The first message was only a few sentences long, it announced the accident, but did not reveal any details on the circumstances, nevertheless it drew attention to the possible dangers. This short announcement have been adopted from the French media by the press worldwide including the Hungarian news portals. However, while on the French web (and following it, all over the world) soon after a more detailed announcement was made, along with the authorities’ reassuring announcement on the lack of radiation danger and radioactive leak, the Hungarian news portals still presented only the first, disconcerting news for hours. When more detailed information became available, it was far from satisfactory. The articles that appeared on the various news portals were teeming with elementary translation faults, misuses of technical terms like mixing up the concepts of “nuclear reactor”, “nuclear power plant”, “nuclear facility”, the merging of chemical and nuclear explosions, uncalled-for provocations of the public opinion and shady political indications. On the next day the news were updated, augmented with the more or less accurate translations of publications from the press worldwide, but the earlier, mistranslated, poorly worded or otherwise misguiding parts remained in the texts. After the further update on the contents of the portals, the entire communicational fiasco could be reconstructed with a bit of “archaeological” work, the analysis of previous news versions, titles and links. Since Hungary is in the path of the winds coming from the direction of France, a serious panic could have followed the fake news about the released radioactive cloud. This case keenly highlights the questions regarding the professional skills and responsibility of those working in the field of public information.

A copy of the full paper has not yet been submitted.

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