The News From Japan (and what’s really going on)


I mentioned last week that I was bothered about the way the awful news from Japan in the wake of the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear emergency trifecta was being reported. Turns out I’m far from the only one. The Japanese are bewildered and angry by the way the Western news media have been focussing on the drama at Fukushima to the near-exclusion of reportage on the very real and growing humanitarian crisis elsewhere. Worse, the focus, particularly on American news networks, has been to talk not about how the incident is affecting the Japanese, but how it is likely to impact on American lives.

This shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s seen American news programmes. They are shockingly insular. Foreign news is either a sixty-second sidebar, or non-existant. The rolling news networks have had to address wider concerns as a way of filling time, but even then the coverage is one-dimensional, and astonishingly ill-informed.

Take a look at this footage of pundit and harridan Nancy Grace, arguing with a weatherman about the likely spread of a plume of Godzilla farts to the California coastline.

Danny Choo writes an informed, comprehensive and geek-friendly blog about Japanese culture, and he has been tenacious in both logging the flawed coverage, and pointing out just how skewed from the reality it can be. Images like this give the lie to the fact that the population of Japan is evacuating in a mad panic. His must-read list of the most wildly speculative bits of news coverage includes, I’m sad to say, posts from the BBC News website, whose reporters really should know better.

I am not for one instant trying to belittle what has happened to Japan. On reading around I am more and more impressed and amazed with the way the Japanese are simply getting on with their lives and the job of reconstruction in the face of disaster. They deserve better and truer representation from the world’s news media then the lazy sensationalism that appears to be the norm.  These are tough times for Japan, and they don’t need this nonsense.

You can donate or get up-to-the-minute and accurate news about the events in Japan right here.


X&HTeam-mate Elina has pointed out to me that there’s an ever-growing list of bad reporting (including the Nancy Grace piece) up at The Journalist’s Wall Of Shame. Well worth a look. Thanks, Elina!


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

5 thoughts on “The News From Japan (and what’s really going on)”

  1. True that. Its shameful to see the way they were rambling about the threat to the west coast. I almost choked my dinner the other night when some US diplomat described how they “forced” the Japanese authority to adseverity severity of the nuclear crisis… huh?

    American news media is a joke, even the supposedly liberal ones sound insane and paranoid. They make up prime time news with local “human stories” that would lead to a reality show in the future. I also notice they almost never mention any news about Israel/Palestine conflicts. I get an hour a day with decent tv news on PBS when it shows BBC World news, whatever mistakes they may make sometimes.

    1. Welcome to the blog, Eve!

      I agree with you about how even the liberal news media seems to be jumping onto the bandwagon. I’d expect jibbering invective from Fox News and the rest of the News International mob. When the BBC and the Guardian fall into the same trap, you have to wonder where you can look for decent, accurate, unbiased coverage.

  2. That Nancy Grace is one dumb, ignorant person. She didn’t even give the weatherman a chance to speak as soon as he mentioned how it wasn’t a threat.

  3. Thanks for this post! This has bugged me as well over the last week. Reports here have been all about the radiation, and nothing about the people who are missing, and the rescue work that is going on in the villages that were hit by the tsunami. Or how the loss of infrastructure will affect the rescue and the rebuilding of the villages. And now that the situation in the nuclear plant seems to be getting better, the reporting has more or less stopped. I think it’s a sign of pitiful journalism that they can’t make news about the things that are really happening, but have to make them up and scare the masses when it’s not necessary. Iodine pills are completely sold out here because people are afraid of the radiation… Unbelievable.

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