Examining new dimensions of nuclear risk on the anniversary of the Hawaii false missile alert
Date: January 8-12, 2019
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Atomic Reporters and the Stanley Foundation invite applications from journalists working in all media to participate in an innovative workshop to explore challenges and opportunities for strengthening reporting on nuclear weapons risk and crisis response in the digital age.
On the morning of January 13, 2018, an inbound ballistic missile alert sounded across the U.S. state of Hawaii, reaching hundreds of thousands of citizens by television, radio, and mobile devices—and shared further on social media. The alert, declaring “THIS IS NOT A DRILL,” followed months of escalating nuclear threats between North Korea and the United States.
For 38 minutes that day, citizens tried to “seek immediate shelter” while also turning to emergency responders, government officials, news outlets, social media, and fellow citizens to verify the authenticity of the alert. Once the alert was declared a false alarm, the story quickly turned to how the mistake happened and how ill-prepared U.S. citizens were to respond to the possibility of a nuclear attack.
But this is only one piece of the story.
Atomic Reporters and the Stanley Foundation will select 15 journalists from the U.S., Europe, and Asia to take part in a workshop in Honolulu, Hawaii from January 8-12, 2019, just ahead of the January 13 anniversary of the false alert.
Using the false alert as a starting point, the “This Is Not a Drill” journalism workshop will explore new dimensions of nuclear risks and how some technological innovations—like communications technologies, social media, cyber capabilities, and open source data—might increase or decrease these risks. The workshop will also explore how to effectively cover these stories while taking into consideration the media’s critical role in informing the public before, during, and after a crisis.
Specialists in this evolving field and its attendant risks will engage with journalists in discussion, together with interactive exercises and at least one field trip, to inform and strengthen reporting on nuclear threats and to consider how reporting interacts with crisis response and policy.
The workshop will invite participants to provide input on a set of best practices for journalists and policymakers to best serve the public in possible future crises.
Among issues the workshop will explore:
- How differently would the Hawaii false missile alert have played out had it involved a cyber attack or disinformation? How could journalists have made that determination?
- What mechanisms do nuclear weapons states have in place to specifically address digital disinformation risks or cyber attacks?
- What benefits or dangers might social media use by national leaders, or other officials, introduce to situations like the Hawaii event or other crises involving the threat of a nuclear attack?
- How vulnerable are nuclear arsenals to cyber-attack? As war planners incorporate cyber warfare into their strategies as a way to pre-emptively counter nuclear threats, what are the risks and how are these risks being managed?
- As technologies further reduce nuclear decision-making times, how might this impact regional conflicts specifically in South Asia and on the Korean peninsula?
- How are all these dangers to be addressed during a deep freeze in arms control, the introduction of new weapons and modernization programs, while roughly 1,800 British, French, Russian and US warheads remain on high alert?
- How can journalists constructively report information before, during, and after a crisis in which the use of nuclear weapons could occur either by choice, mistake, or miscalculation?
Benefits to journalists
Journalists participating in the workshop will:
- Develop or improve competence in covering a subject of increasing global concern about which there is little accountability in the public interest
- Connect with respected independent specialists and resources, including how to make use of open source and crowd sourced data
- Join a network of journalists investigating issues related to emerging technologies and nuclear weapons
- Have the opportunity to win a post-workshop reporting fellowship, either as an individual or team, with costs covered to pursue investigative reporting
How to apply
To be eligible as a workshop participant, applicants must:
- Be a working journalist, staff or freelance, from or representing an established media outlet based in Asia, Europe, or the U.S. In addition, one journalism student may be accepted to participate.
- Be available to attend the workshop in Hawaii from January 8-12, 2019;
- Commit to participating in all workshop activities;
- Submit a story idea related to the workshop’s themes;
- Provide a letter of support from an editor, producer, or supervisor who can confirm your track record in getting your material published; and
- Be fluent in English.
Atomic Reporters and the Stanley Foundation will cover all transport and subsistence costs of journalists participating in the workshop, including economy-class airfare, hotel accommodations, meals, and ground transportation. Additionally, costs associated with obtaining a visa to attend the workshop will be reimbursed.
Following the workshop, participating journalists will be offered the opportunity to apply for fellowships to pursue reporting investigating the intersection of emerging technologies and new dimensions of nuclear risk. Up to six fellowships will be awarded in early 2019.
An independent panel of specialists from academia, journalism and the nuclear non-proliferation community will be serving as advisors for the workshop and will give input on the selection of fellowship recipients.
The Stanley Foundation is a U.S.-based, non-partisan, private operating foundation with a long track record of working with the media to strengthen journalists’ understanding of nuclear weapons and other peace and security issues, while respecting editorial independence.
Atomic Reporters is an independent, non-profit, incorporated in Canada, operating as an officially recognized international NGO from Austria, providing substantive and non-partisan information to journalists about nuclear science and technology.
For questions about the workshop agenda, speakers, or other details, please contact info(at)atomicreporters.com or click here