April 1979 Memo From H.L. Stevenson

This is an April 1979 memo from editor in chief and vice president H.L. Stevenson to general news editors, state editors, bureau managers and general-regional executives:

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In discussing the recent Three Mile Island nuclear accident there are some important things to bear in mind in regards to the accuracy of the coverage.

--UPI was not first to report March 31 an immediate danger of explosion in the cripple reactor and that officials had only hours, instead of days, to decide on evacuating thousands of people from the area.

UPI did not have this report at all because it was wrong.

The report caused so much consternation that Harold Denton, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission expert on the scene, visited the capitol newsroom to say it was wrong and to explain why.

UPI subscribers had the correct story all along.

--UPI was not the first to report April 2 that the utility company operating Three Mile Island said a hydrogen bubble preventing engineers from shutting down the reactor had all but disappeared. NRC experts would not confirm this report, although they later said the bubble had shrunk considerably, it was a day later that it disappeared. This is what UPI reported.

--UPI was not the first with a report on April 16 that steam, possibly radioactive, had escaped from the plant.

UPI did not carry this story because it was wrong.

There was a visible emission, but it was from an oil-fired burner connected to the other reactor at Three Mile Islad and had no connection with the nuclear crisis. This is what UPI reported.

--UPI did not report April 10 "joyful residents" returning to Middletown and other communities around the plant after Gov. Dick Thornburgh rescinded his advice that pregnant women and young children stay away. These residents were not joyful. They were somber, reluctant and even a little frightened for themselves and their children. This is what UPI reported.

UPI was accurate, UPI was responsible, UPI was reliable throughout the crisis.


H.L. Stevenson