Tsunami in Japan – Online Coverage

Posted: April 19, 2011 by Maria Acle in #9 Japan

When disasters like this occur, it is up to news organizations to step up their game and explain everything to the public. It is somehow difficult to have everyone on board when the issue includes radiation, nuclear plants and nuclear reactors. There are a lot of technical terms that need to be explained and in this can sometimes make it boring. It sounds rude to say that these catastrophes can be boring, but the truth is that when it comes to science, not many people will stay tuned.

However, many news organizations have managed to make this story very interactive and easy to understand on their websites. The thing with having this information in online websites is that the public can access the information as many times as they want, and they can go back to certain definitions of terms as many times as they want. On the other hand, a tougher medium is television, where explaining these things can sound repetitive if done too many times. And print is great for putting these definitions up but it lacks the interactive side. So for me, it is safe to say that the online medium is the best for exposing these types of disasters.

Both CBC and CNN used the medium really cleverly. They caught my attention because they put videos, pictures and interactive maps all together. CNN had some great photo essays explaining what happened picture by picture. Also, it was interesting to see the ‘before and after’ interactive satellite maps from the NYTimes website.  You can scroll to the left and right to see what the area looked before and then after the tsunami. Another great page in the NYTimes is the one explaining ‘How Shifting Plates Caused the Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan.’ You can click on different images and maps, and it takes you through a really cool interactive story of what happened. Also, the NYTimes has a page where you can go through images and zoom in to see the damage up close. A great use of video was seen in the BBC website. In it a seismologist explains in a short video what exactly triggered the tsunami.

I feel that with all of these resources we are better informed about these disasters, because they take us to the exact spot where it happened, and it makes it come to life for us. Many times in a way that other media can’t.


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