The devastating news of the Tohoku earthquake in Japan made headlines across the globe on Friday, March 11, 2011. The nerve wracking images and videos of the merciless tsunami waves sent shivers down our spines and gave us a glimpse of the catastrophe that had struck Japan.

A few hours after news of the earthquake, another aspect of the story started to surface. This was the story of the damage to the Fukushima nuclear reactors that were closest to the epicenter of the quake. From exaggerated reports of hazardous radiation leaks to the possibilities of a nuclear meltdown- these stories overshadowed the humanitarian crises in Japan and dominated the news for the remainder of its coverage.

There are many aspects of the news coverage that troubled me deeply. No doubt that damage to the nuclear reactor was important to report but it was frustrating to be constantly bombarded with updates of a possible radiation leak while there was no mention of the thousands that had already died and were left homeless. Media’s desire to sensationalize the news and debase the nuclear industry caused the human plight of the disaster to be ignored. This, I believe, is one of the main reasons why fundraising for this calamity has been deplorable.

As someone who currently works at a nuclear plant, I was fortunate enough to have access to information directly from sources at the Fukushima plant. It was this perspective that shielded me from the overly exaggerated and flawed reports that at times would draw outrageous parallels between Fukushima and Chernobyl. It was also this perspective that allowed me to sympathize with the workers at the plant and gave me a glimpse into the enormity of the task these people were dealing with. Imagine solving a nuclear crisis under conditions where your co-workers have passed away or your family is missing.

Since the coverage of this event has been antagonistic, the average reader is inclined to blame the operators of the plant for the crises, forgetting the fact that Fukushima has had to deal with two natural disasters simultaneously; which it has dealt with quite remarkably, might I add. Anti-nuclear protests have been spurred in several parts of the world and governments are nervous about going ahead with new builds despite the industry’s 30-year safety record.

It has only been in recent days that we have heard of harmful levels of radiation outside the plant due to a possible breach of containment. Still, the number of people affected by the nuclear incident so far is negligible compared to the thousands that have died due to the earth quake and tsunami. Many of their voices have been ignored thanks to the obsession of media outlets with news that is melodramatic but not necessarily relevant.

Originally written for The Mirror