違う見方、違う報道2012 version：The Foreign Media and 3/11 (Japanese)
Different Views, Different News:
The Tohoku Earthquake & Tsunami, the
Fukushima Nuclear Reactor, and How the
World’s Media Reported Them
By Eric Johnston
The Japan Times, Osaka office, Editorial Dept., News Division
The Foreign Media and
The Situation on
March 10th, 2011
How Many Foreign Media in
179 media organs
according to Foreign Press Center Japan
Main Media in Japan pre-3.11
Country No. of Media
No. of Media
U.S. 40 220
U.K. 17 89
China（ex. Hong Kong） 15 49
South Korea 18 34
France 12 32
Germany 15 30
Hong Kong 5 11
Taiwan 8 11
Russia 5 8
What were these meeting reporting prior to 3.11?
Six types of stories are prevalent;
(1) Electronic goods;
(6) Economic. Stories on politics and general society.
In addition to Japan, there are foreign correspondents who have
to cover South Korea, Taiwan, and China.
The high yen and the fact that Japan’s presence internationally
is greatly reduced means that, for foreign media, Japan is too
expensive and not important. Many foreign media bureaus in
Japan have already pulled out.
And then, the quake and
tsunami hit. Suddenly, Japan
was a major international
March 11－15th: The First Overseas Media Reports
Were often based on the activities of the 551
foreign correspondents in Japan.
These activities included:
(1) Transmitting English translations of information
based on NHK or Kyodo reports; and
(2) On-the-spot reports from correspondents in
Tokyo who managed to get to the damaged areas
quickly. First correspondents were in affected
areas of Tohoku within four hours of quake striking
at 2:46 p.m. on March 11th.
The First Overseas Media Reports
On March 12, overseas media began arriving in
Japan. Overseas readers and TV viewers began to
see or read more reports from famous or respected
journalists rather than from local correspondents.
These famous/respected journalists had lots of
experience. But unlike local correspondents, they did
not understand Japanese language or culture.
Overseas TV commentators then introduced lots of
speculative experts, based on information they were
getting from famous/respected reporters on the
Common Traits of
Reporting On-Location in
Reporters cooperated with each other. Groups of
friends from different media traveled around the
quake/tsunami-damaged areas together.
The Japanese media had to cover both the
damaged areas and the central government
announcements. The foreign media often
concentrated on what was happening on the
ground in Tohoku.
In the disaster areas, Japanese media
participated in official press conferences. But even
foreign reporters who understood Japanese did
not usually attend because :
(1) The small number of foreign media
reporters per media organization decided it
was more important to concentrate on
covering people who had been affected by
the disaster. They did not have the manpower
to cover the briefings as well; and
(2) Japan’s press club system meant neither the
Japanese government nor the Japanese mass
media had a sufficient system to provide timely
official information to foreign media within the
disaster areas. The attitude of both was, ``If
foreign reporters have questions, they can find
the appropriate spokesperson themselves. . .``
March 12th: CNN
[``Meltdown May Be Underway]
``We see the possibility of a
meltdown’’, said Toshihiro Bannai,
of The Japan Nuclear and Industrial
Safety Agency in a telephone
March 12th Reuters
[Explosion , Radiation Leaks from
Japan’s Quake-Hit Nuclear Plant]
Radiation leaked from Japan’s
earthquake –crippled nuclear plant on
Saturday after a blast blew the roof off,
and authorities prepared to distribute
March 13th, Agence-France
[US Experts: `Chernobyl-like’’
Crisis For Japan]
–US experts warned Saturday that
pumping sea water to cool a quake-
hit Japanese nuclear reactor was an
``act of desperation’’ that may
foreshadow a Chernoybl-like
March 13th, Associated Press (AP)
[Japan Frantic to Avert Multiple
Nuclear Meldowns. New
Explosion Rocks Nuclear Plant]
CNN, Reuters, AFP, and AP’s reports are
heavily used by overseas media that do not
have the ability to send their own reporters to
cover a story.
The facts introduced, and the tone, in the first
reports of the wire services and major
international broadcasters heavily influences
how other media, especially
newspapers, local TV and radio, and, of
course, social media, continue to cover the
The four media examples I just used
contained , in their stories and headlines:
(1) A statement from a Japanese government
official; about a meltdown possibility;
(2) A report that Japanese authorities are about
to distribute iodine;
(3) An American expert warning of Chernobyl-like
(4) A sentence saying the Japanese government
is starting to panic.
Therefore, the resulting image abroad
was. . .
``A Chernobyl-like disaster is occurring in
Japan, with the reactors melting
down, and multi explosions are sending
dangerous levels of radiation into the air.
The Japanese government is panicking
and the danger of radiation sickness is
now very real.’’
Caught in the Center of
an Overseas Media
The Sun (British tabloid) ``Tokyo a ghost
town.. No gas, no water, no food. People
starting to panic.’’’
Le Figaro (French newspaper) ``Fukushima
workers trying to save the plant are
nuclear kamikaze who have been
The Telegraph (UK newspaper) Headline:
``Just 48 hours to avoid another
CNN: ``There is a mass exodus from
Japan: Caught in the Center of an
Overseas Media Typhoon
The Daily Mail (UK newspaper): ``UN
predicts nuclear plume to reach U.S. by
CBC News: ``UK, US, South Korea,
Australia, Germany evacuating citizens
from Japan due to Fukushima.’’
Der Spiegel (Germany): ``Radioactive
cloud drifting towards Tokyo.’’
The New York Times
Japan nuclear plant:
Just 48 hours to avoid
Japan has 48 hours to bring its rapidly escalating
nuclear crisis under control before it faces a
catastrophe ―worse than Chernobyl‖, it was
claimed last night.
France, U.S., Great Britain, Germany and other countries
advise their citizens to either avoid the Fukushima
area, consider leaving Tokyo, or to leave Tokyo altogether.
Austria, Finnish ambassadors move to Kansai region.
Many embassies order all non-essential staff to return to
their home countries.
Many Tokyo-based foreign firms send employees to Kansai
Tokyo and Tohoku-based foreigners leave Japan in huge
HOW MANY FOREIGNERS LEFT
JAPAN? About 400,000
構図：日本外国特派員協会会報No. 1 Shimbun (5月号）より
Chinese 1,312,897 170,347 13％
Koreans 2,002,695 92,668 5%
U.S. non-military 674,165 34,115 5%
Filippino 257,036 18,375 7%
Thai 201,271 12,164 6%
Australian 206,728 10,512 5%
UK 174,677 11,993 7%
Indian 58,160 9,015 16%
French 131,100 7,744 6%
Canadian 150,048 6,853 5%
German 102,831 5,949 6%
Fight Back Against
‘Excessive’ Foreign Media
After about a week or so foreign
media reports about the quake,
some Tokyo-based foreigners,
angry at the foreign media reporting
and how it’s scaring their friends
and relatives in their home
countries, begin criticizing the
Their actions include:
1) Creating a ``Wall of Shame’’, a list of what they
say are the worst examples of foreign meeting
reporting on Japan. Readers and TV viewers
are asked to send in reports they read or saw
that they felt were mistaken, biased, excessive
or simply ill-informed.
Reports are judged on a scale of 1 to 10, with
1 being reports that were unintentionally bad
and based on information that seemed
legitimate at the time, to 10 being reports that
encourage hysterical fear-mongering.
By early April, there are nearly 80
entries, which include media from the U.S., The
UK, France, Canada, Germany, and Belgium.
Backlash: Japan’s response
to the foreign media
Friday, April 8th, Japanese government asks foreign media
to ``objectively’’ cover the crisis at Fukushima power,.
Complains some reports by foreign media are ``excessive.’’
Foreign Ministry angry at New York Times’, European
media reports TEPCO hired homeless people and yakuza
to work in Fukushima.. These stories are basically
true, confirmed by independent sources.
Ministry for Internal Affairs, the National Policy Agency, and
the Ministry for International Trade and Industry attempt to
crack down on Japanese bloggers who posted ``malicious’’
rumors about Fukushima reactor.
Government pressures service providers to remove the
names of the companies that built Fukushima reactors.
Bloggers and journalists warn Constitutional guarantees of
freedom of speech are being threatened. Mainstream
Japanese media is silent.
1) Journalists who know
Japan and live, or have lived,
here ask which is better: a
media that warns too much
of possible dangers, or a
media doesn’t warn you
They point out that the Japanese media
has a long history of not being
aggressive when it comes to challenging
the government and of simply repeating
what government officials say rather
than being skeptical and getting differing
``Japan’s media serves the
government and the nuclear
power industry, not the people.’’
So, they ask, is it really a good idea
to simply trust what the Japanese
media and government are saying?
Other foreign journalists say that, given:
(1) The scale of the Disaster,
(2) Deadline constraints,
(3) The fact that Japan is one of the
World’s Most Expensive Countries;
(4) Limited Time and Financial Resources
Available to Fact Check; and
(5) Language/Cultural Issues. . .
``To a large extent, mistaken
reporting cannot be helped.’’
Finally, there is the difficulty of understanding
nuclear power itself. Few journalists have a
lot of knowledge about nuclear power and do
not have the time to study it in depth.
Contradictory information about nuclear
power and how safe it is. Experts themselves
don’t have the kind of clear answers
journalists often need, and readers and
viewers often want.
From April 2011 Onwards:
Foreign Media Moves
from Panic to Concern
By early April:
1) A growing sense that, while serious, the
Fukushima reactor problem is a long-term
2) Realization a dramatic Chernobyl-like
explosion won’t happen;
3) Events elsewhere (Arab Spring) have
became main international media stories;
4) Which means that most foreign reporters left
in Japan by mid-April are the 551 Japan-
EVEN AS MANY FOREIGN MEDIA ARE
PACKING UP, THOUGH, FOREIGN
AND JAPANESE MEDIA, AND PUBLIC
OF JAPANESE GOVERNMENT
IS GROWING STRONGER
``Where is Everybody’’ Japanese government briefing for foreign
journalists on April 25th does not draw a single reporter.
That same day, April 25th, FOX News
airs a comment by physicist Michio Kaku,
who compares the way TEPCO and the
Japanese government are running things
to something out of ``The Simpsons’’
By May, foreign media
are asking a number of
questions the Japanese
media is starting to
What Are The Long-Term
–American media like Associated Press as well as The New
York Times face criticism from U.S. doctors, nuclear
scientists, and anti-nuclear activists for interviewing mostly
those who say there is little danger from the Fukushima plant.
Many people play ``numbers games’’, insisting that because
Professor W or Dr. X or this or that agency, institute, or
organization says that Y number of milliseiverts over Z number
of years, the long-term effects are/are not a problem.. This
causes great debate—and confusion.
Foreign media, especially in the UK, and Europe, as well as
U.S. media outlets with a progressive agenda, start to quote a
2005 study by 3,000 doctors and radiation experts the U.S.
National Academy of Sciences, which notes no dose of
radiation is safe, however small, including background
radiation; exposure is cumulative and adds to an
individual's risk of developing cancer.
How Is Japan Going To Pay For
2) Growing concern Japan will be unable to keep a number of
international financial aid promises. Japanese officials, at a
Harvard University seminar in April 2011 assure audience
Japan will meet its international commitments.
3) But U.S defense experts now wonder if Japan will refuse to pay
for 60 percent of the costs for relocating the Marines on
Okinawa to Guam, Others wonder if it will meet a host of
financial commitments made at various multilateral meetings
like the G-8 and G-20.
4) True Cost of Reconstruction?
5) 20 trillion yen?
6) 30 trillion yen?
7) 50 trillion yen? Nobody seems to know.
How long will Japan Have to
With the Fukushima plant now gone, Tokyo faced up to a 15
million kilowatt shortage of electricity in the summer 2011.
Conservation measures prevented this, but last year’s effort
could be the beginning of a conservation effort that lasts years,
maybe decades, before there is a safe, stable, and sufficient
amount of electricity available from new power plants that will
have to be built to replace Fukushima.
Will Japan have to drastically cut its energy use
for years and years to come? What will this mean
for the economy and the but general quality of
What’s The Future of Nuclear
Power in Japan?
Related that, a subset of questions:
1) Will Japan turn back on its other reactors
shut down for ``stress tests’’?
1) Will the nuclear power lobby successfully
preserve its power or will the anti-nuclear
power forces in local governments like
Osaka as well as the renewable energy
lobby win the day?
Causes of ``biased’’ coverage:
The Foreign Media View
(1) Japan’s Information Dispersal
Japan’s press club system, whereby only select newspapers, wire
services, and television are allowed to attend official press
conferences and given information in a timely manner has created a
closed system of information sharing on the part of the Japanese
Even South Korea and China complained the only way they were
learning about what Japan was doing after 3/11 was through the
media –there were apparently no official briefings by Japan’s Foreign
Ministry for either country during the first few days after the
(2) The Galapagos Island Mentality:
In the eyes of many overseas, Japan is becoming a
Used to refer to technology developed by Japan and
only popular there. Now sometimes used to refer to the
Japanese themselves, because Japanese are becoming
ever-more isolated from what the rest of the world is
thinking and doing.
The result: fewer Japanese in positions of authority who
are familiar with how the international media works, and
how to respond to international media.
(For example, saying ``there is nothing to worry about’’
time after time may be the way things are done in Japan,
And How do the Japanese Media See
Foreign Media Coverage?
(1) Foreign media don’t really understand Japan or the
Japanese people, or the way Japan works. So even
when they do an honest job, it’s impossible to avoid
mistakes or biased reporting.
(2) The British tabloids, some American TV stations, don’t
like Japanese people, so it’s easy for them to be
(3) Unlike the Japanese media, which carefully researched
the ``facts’’ about radiation and was interested in
maintaining calm, the foreign media had a commercial
interest in not reporting the facts.
(4) Japanese media were more careful about interviewing
nuclear experts than foreign media, who often just ran
Causes of ``biased’’ Overseas Media
Reporting –some Japanese views
(5) Foreign reporters on the ground did a good job. It
was the pundits and others who never came to
Japan but engaged in speculation that caused
people to panic (this is a view many foreigners and
foreign journalists in Japan would share).
(6) However some foreign reporters, and long-term
Japan resident correspondents who read Japanese,
also followed Japanese bloggers and tabloid media
reports that were also biased, mistaken, and
sensationalist, often on purpose.
1. The unprecedented scale of the
disaster made it extremely hard for
all media to cover it as effectively as
they would have liked.
Therefore, thoroughly accurate
``factual’’ reporting was impossible.
II. Relatively few foreign correspondents
familiar with Japan in-country when the
earthquake happened meant few
journalists or commentators abroad who
could explain what was happening, call
contacts in Japan, and why Japan was
behaving in the manner it was.
III. No one agreed-upon view
regarding nuclear power safety, or
how much radiation is dangerous,
meant Fukushima reactor could not
be covered ``objectively’’.
Reporters and media either basically
thought nuclear power was
dangerous or not, and reported based
on that belief.
Clearly, many foreign media were far
more skeptical BEFORE the accident
about safety of nuclear power than
many in Japan.
IV. Tokyo Was Affected
As the center of Japan, and home to a quarter
of the country’s population and virtually all
foreign journalists, it was a ``national’’ story
because it was happening right in front of the
Would the reaction of the foreign media (or
even the Japanese media) been as dramatic
had the quake and tsunami occurred far from
Tokyo, off of Kyushu, Hokkaido, or Fukui and
Fukuoka, Sapporo, or even Kansai been in
danger of radiation?
No, it would have been a ``local’’ story.
V. The Power of Images
Footage of dramatic explosions at the Fukushima
reactor played over and over again on TV and on
If a picture was worth a thousand words in a
government statement of reassurance, loop
footage of the explosions, and then of helicopters
dropping seawater on the smoking reactors
completely shot the credibility of anybody in
Japan who was saying ``Don’t worry.’’
FOREIGN MEDIA REPORTING IN
MARCH-APRIL 2011 OFTEN GOT THE
BUT THEY WERE FAR CLOSER TO THE
``TRUTH’’ OF WHAT WAS HAPPENING
THAN MANY JAPANESE MEDIA.
And finally. . .Social Media
The quake and tsunami demonstrated, as never
before, the power of Social Media to provide critical
information, let the outside world know what was
happening, bypass traditional mainstream media
outlets, and immediately challenge both media and
government reports on what was really happening.
Foreign journalists often trusted Japanese Social
Media sources in the disaster zone, and used their
comments to challenge official statements.
Mainstream Japanese media was far more
interested in traditional use of official sources and
reporting methods, and thus did not, in the
immediate aftermath, provide a counter-narrative to
the official one.
Thanks for Listening!
Now I want to hear your
opinions and questions.