Media coverage of the quake and tsunami in Japan

Mark Mays tetsuwan at
Sat Mar 19 16:09:29 EDT 2011

Western media’s coverage has been mostly unintentionally hilarious, especially early on. From Fox News locating a nuclear plant in Shibuya to Anderson Cooper clearly nervous about being anywhere near a reactor. More on them in a moment, but first . . . 

My wife happened to be on Skype with her mother in Hadano when the quake hit. Instead of checking the news or web sites I went straight to social media (twitter, etc). Even though I do work in mainstream press (less so recently but am about to be back in the game) I wouldn’t trust them to break a big international story properly. You really have to wait for one of the big papers to contextualize things to get a proper story, though even the big papers over here in the states really screwed the pooch early on. Part of the problem, given the nuclear energy angle, was that reporters has to rely on others a great deal more to adequately understand what is really happening. Great thing about Web and social media is that there are plenty of experts out there to offer an opinion and either consensus will push the better ones to the front or you can sort it out for yourself if you’ve the time.

Even when the print reporter does the story, the tendency may be to go with the best quote and/or MOST ALARMING HEADLINE POSSIBLE.

For sometime, I thought the tsunami victims and heroes were given short shrift. I think that has improved now.

The local paper relies on AP for international stories and AP has been all over the place. They have however focused on local efforts to raise money for the victims and today a picture from a vigil held at a local university was above the fold front page. Over the past week such stories were in the B section, while IMPENDING NUCLEAR DOOM stories held sway in Section A.

IMO National Public Radio, target of scorn and derision, has done the best job of context, presenting a clear picture. Still, it’s not what you can get on the web on your own with a little bit of work.

I’ve been most interested in the public reaction. I’ve noticed a lot of people going with the “divine retribution” angle around here. I’m on a public affairs talk show a couple of times a month, last week we had a caller that blamed the disaster on Japan’s lax environmental policy, and so the Earth was taking revenge. What?

From: Jesse Kalin 
Sent: Saturday, March 19, 2011 10:13 AM
To: KineJapan at 
Subject: Re: Media coverage of the quake and tsunami in Japan

Readers on this list might be interested in the following criticism/analysis of American TV coverage published recently in the San Francisco Chronicle; it makes many of the same points Roger does:

The print coverage has been considerably better.  The following graphic made by the NY Times provides an indelible visualization of the the tsunami's devastation, in case you missed it (the graphic superimposes before and after satellite images with a slider to show the change):

Jesse Kalin, New York

On Mar 19, 2011, at 8:45 AM, Roger Macy wrote:

  Media coverage of the quake and tsunami in Japan
  Dear KineJapaners,

  I was also glad to have the silence on this list broken and to hear from friends.  I sincerely hope that those I have not yet heard from are safe and do not have friends or relatives afflicted by these tragedies.

  There have been direct and indirect references to media coverage of the disaster on the threads ‘Fundraising Screening of CALF …’ and ‘the eerie silence on KineJapan …’ [which we have well-and-truly broken!].  But I would like to hear of members’ takes on the coverage when they are ready.  My own contribution is a little long, so feel free to file or delete.
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