'Wall of shame' - media slammed for Japan crisis coverage

By Paul Harper

Thick white smoke billows from the number 3 unit of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plan. Photo / AP
Thick white smoke billows from the number 3 unit of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plan. Photo / AP

Foreign media has copped criticism for some of their coverage of the Japanese disaster from within Japan - with Fox News attracting particular ridicule for including a Tokyo nightclub in a graphic of Japanese nuclear power plants.

The graphic on March 14 included the "Shibuyaeggman" nuclear power plant, however the Shibuya Eggman is a popular nightclub in Shibuya, Tokyo.

The error featured on a "Wall of Shame" on the online forum JPQuake, where Japanese residents have collated examples of erroneous reporting on the Japanese disaster.

The US news network also coped criticism for referring to Fukushima Daiichi and other plants as "nuke plants".

Other examples of perceived poor journalism include sensationalist headlines, inappropriate references to World war Two and caption errors.

Air New Zealand's chief executive Rob Fyfe has also criticised media coverage, in New Zealand and across the world, for over exaggerating the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

"During the course of the week I have become increasingly disappointed with the media coverage here in New Zealand and amongst much of the world's English speaking media about the risk posed by the emergency occurring at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations - little of it is fact based, it is increasingly taking the form of a docu-drama with a mixture of fact, ill-informed non-expert opinion and a fair dose of fiction," he wrote in an update to staff.

However, while many Japanese and others accuse the foreign media of scaremongering, Keiko Kanai, an associate professor of journalism and mass media at Kinki University in Osaka, told the Japan Times foreign media are more pessimistic than Japanese media about the danger of radiation and cite a greater range of sources.

"Japanese media coverage seems to have led readers and viewers to be extremely sceptical of the degree of reliability of reported information," Kanai said. "This is because Japan's media almost solely depend on the prime minister's office and Tepco for information, because it's likely Tepco hasn't revealed everything they know, and because the Japanese media has been playing down the gravity of the situation because they don't want to fan people's fears. This is why they keep repeating the phrase 'no harm to one's health' over and over."

The Times of London's Leo Lewis, a former Tokyo correspondent back in Japan to cover the disaster, told Japan Times the Japanese public has "not always been well-served by its domestic media".

"Undoubtedly, it's not in anyone's interest to see exaggerated reporting during a situation of this severity, where the cost of public panic is so high. But that same severity should also not forgive a lack of vigilance," he said.

"It is a very fine balance. But if the price paid for having a vigilant media is occasional bursts of sensationalism, I'd probably take that over a more acquiescent press whose worst failure is the dereliction of its fourth estate duties."

A poll on the Japan Times website found 27 percent intended to leave areas in the Kanto region due to instability at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, another 11 percent intended to stay for either work or family obligations, 17 percent said "this is my home and I wouldn't leave", 31 percent were watching further developments before they decide and 15 percent are "still not worried".

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n3 at 26 Jul 2014 12:29:53 Processing Time: 487ms