Flat-footed in Japan

With Asia bureaus dwindling, some North American news outlets were caught flat-footed by Japan’s earthquake, suggesting it’s time to update disaster coverage planning. A Time article argues the crisis will test the depth of U.S. foreign coverage. Some observers may be disturbed by how quickly Canadian and U.S. outlets have constructed a moral narrative of the polite and proper way to react in a disaster – form a queue and follow orders – with the words ‘unlike some other people’ hanging in the air unspoken.

Community radio played a crucial role in the 2004 tsunami, and has been recognized by UNESCO as media that sticks around after disaster, acting as a watchdog on aid delivery. Volunteer-run Radio FMYY, set up after the Kobe earthquake, has been posting English-language broadcasts and has a list of community radio stations operating in the affected areas. Also on the citizen media side, the blogging empowerment project Global Voices has put together special coverage of the devastation.

Universidad de Navarra’s centre for media impact analysis is tracking global media coverage, while the Poynter Institute has published a list of social media links, including the most active Twitter hashtags. Google has created an earthquake map: after opening the map, click on the right column items to see shelter locations, nuclear evacuation areas, satellite images and other details.

Photo credit: Wikimedia/Composite graphic by W. Rebel