Thursday, 17 March 2011

What is news?

The Guardian has a report about UK newspaper coverage of the quake aftermath. The sensationalism in headlines is not limited to the other papers, The Guardian is just as guilty. (Yesterday: "Growing humanitarian crisis as nuclear drama overshadows disaster relief". Yet isn't it the media doing the overshadowing?)

I knew very little about nuclear power, but checking as much as I could to satisfy myself of what threat I faced living in Tokyo, I couldn't see the real threat at all. Some people – foreign and Japanese – have left the city for western parts of the country or for abroad to escape tremors and now nuclear threat. It's understandable to be with family, and, especially, protect young children etc. And with all the questioning and a media sense of fear, Tuesday night was pretty low for me, more so because there was a sizeable (just over magnitude 6) quake to the west. But as the ground very really moved, the more I researched about the power station problem, the less I could find to worry about – that is, here in Tokyo, not within the exclusion zone: as with the initial quake and tsunami, Tokyo has been luckier than the areas properly hit. (The press always concentrate on Tokyo, of course. There's a sizeable town called Mito, for example, nearer the station, but perhaps "Exodus From Mito" wouldn't sell papers. My friend's parents live there. Other friends live closer in Chiba City)

Fortunately, yesterday the British Embassy has a more level-headed approach than the press. They posted advice on Facebook, which was re-posted elsewhere: here for example.

Not knowing much about the threat, and the threat being invisible, all make good press, and a nuclear symbol makes for a good break from tsunami images. Here, too, the media have over-focussed to the point of hysteria on the power station. Prompting one person in a shelter in the tsunami-hit area, with no house, lost friends and relatives, food scarce, keeping warm from the winter temperatures, to comment: it seems like people are already forgetting us.

Let's hope it's not so. Good reporting continues from my colleague Julian Ryall for the Telegraph

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