From Bhopal to Superfund: The News Media and the Environment

By Sanjoy Hazarika

A paper by Sanjoy Hazarika, fall 1993 fellow, analyzes the press coverage of India’s Bhopal disaster in 1984. Hazarika was one of the first reporters to cover the industrial accident, a gas leak from a pesticide plant that killed more than 4,000 and hospitalized 200,000 more. As New Delhi correspondent for The New York Times, he helped shape his own paper’s early coverage, and watched as the paper continued its reporting – along with a handful of others – well after the defining moment of disaster had passed. By pursuing the Bhopal story, not as an isolated tragedy but as part of a pattern of dangers that touches not only the Third World, but also the industrialized West, reporters and editors were able to help set a public agenda and raise public awareness of technology’s dangers. Combining extensive interviews with reconstruction of chronologies, he reveals how the Bhopal disaster ultimately led to important new public checks on technology, and casts a light on the intersection between technology, the public interest, and the role of reporting.

Download the paper (PDF).