Nearly three hours have passed since I began the assignment to explore news coverage of the disaster in Japan—proof that there is no shortage of news and commentary to be found on the Internet. On Twitter, CNN posted: “More than 21,000 dead or missing in #Japan #quake, #tsunami aftermath, police say.” The linked entry leads to CNN’s news blog, “This Just In.” On this blog is an invitation for people in affected areas to send in “iReports.” It also has an “interactive explainer”—a mini-tutorial with slides and descriptions about nuclear reactor basics and what’s taking place at Japan’s damaged reactors. The blog also has numerous short news videos that address a variety of issues related to the earthquake and tsunami.
On the New York Times’ website are a number of articles about various aspects of the disaster in Japan, as well as photos. One interesting interactive feature on the site shows “before and after” satellite photos of a number of locations in Japan that were devastated by the tsunami, including the Fukushima nuclear plant. Viewers can drag the small blue bar in the middle of the photo to the left or right to see the exact same scene before or after the earthquake. It’s fascinating, and I spent far too much time using it. The New York Times also has a captivating a photo gallery-“Aftermath in Japan.” The images are categorised by date and as of March 21st, there were 172 of them.
Typing “Japan” into the BBC’s search field takes visitors to a page with many different sections, all containing stories, audio, or video relating to the recent catastrophe. BBC doesn’t limit its offerings to those produced by its own corporation. Its section, “Elsewhere on the Web,” has stories found…elsewhere on the web (like a country profile of Japan from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office).
BBC News, CNN, and the New York Times all use their Facebook pages to post either headlines and links to stories, or their Twitter feed. On each page, stories about Japan can be found. These three news outlets also use Twitter to lead “followers” to stories on their sites. That’s how I found “Op Art: Scenes from the Tsunami”—a New York Times collection of work by Japanese artists.
Someone told me the other day that people in Japan say their news reports about the catastrophe are far more graphic than the sanitised ones airing in the West. By spending time looking at photo galleries of the disaster, I saw scenes that traditional media has seemed to avoid showing: bodies of victims. Scanning the “before and after” aerial shots gave me a greater understanding of the scope of the devastation caused by the tsunami. By doing a Twitter search of #Japan, I learned how many people are talking/tweeting about the country—there seemed to be about 150 new tweets every twenty minutes or so. Using a variety of media has enabled me to see the disaster from many different angles.
Much has changed since the days citizens waited for the evening news, or the morning paper, to find out what had transpired in the past twenty-four hours. We no longer have to settle for the small amount of news that traditional media provide on each story. Those who have access to the Internet can spend hours watching, reading, and listening to news on a particular topic, as I did today with Japan. We can be as well-informed as we want to be.