Thursday, March 17, 2011

Shoddy Journalism and the Good Ones: Covering the Crisis in Japan

Last night I stayed up way past my bedtime and the only thing that happened, aside from being really tired this morning, was me getting really pissed off.

I stayed up late and decided to catch up on the "news coverage" of japan by clicking on some stories on the Yahoo News main page. What I saw were puff pieces and downright bullshit by several American news organizations. I saw some journalists who basically should basically pack it in and get a job fetching coffee for camera operators as opposed to standing in front of a camera!

I’ve been basically keeping up on the most up to date news of the disaster here in Japan from a few sources. One of them of course being Japanese television (I do indeed live in Japan) and the other being Twitter. I do realize that Twitter is often a repository for people’s thoughts and opinions, but during this ongoing crisis, something different has happened. Many bloggers and vloggers based in Japan have really stepped up and have become truly credible news sources. They are spending their days and nights scouring news services, both domestic and foreign and sharing links and stories with the world. More often than not, these bloggers have been far more accurate in their reporting and views than many professional journalists.

Now of course, I cannot dump on all foreign media covering this crisis. Many correspondents and writers for foreign print/digital media have indeed been living in Japan for a long time, speak the language and understand the culture. Those journalists stand out.

I’m talking about the representatives of foreign media who are parachuted (not literally of course) in to the tsunami/disaster zone and report with no background or understanding of the people or culture. They are sent in from countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. to quickly publish puff pieces or “hard hitting” news with very few, if any facts correct. These are the folks that piss me off royally! These are the people who sell papers through bullshit and fear mongering.

There is a famous saying in the newspaper industry that states, “If it bleeds, it leads!” Simply put, sensational sells. That has been the case since the advent of newspapers and has not changed. Whether you are consuming You Tube videos, blogs, print or televised media; sensational sells! Unfortunately, sensational usually doesn’t equal accurate!

Now, back to these bloggers on Twitter who have been doing such an amazing job keeping the world informed about what is really happening. Many of them are doing such a great job because of the fact that they have been here for a long time, they speak the language, understand the culture and most of all, I think, are connected to Japan. They care about Japan and the Japanese people. They have a vested interest in the country and want to tell people, both here and abroad the real story. They may not be “professional” journalists, but they cite sources, do their research and work very hard to get things correct.

I suppose I can make the comparison of professional journalists to professional teachers (which I am). I’ve taught in Korea, Canada and now Japan and have met many teachers. Some of the greatest teachers I ever worked with in Korea/Japan didn’t have teaching licenses. They didn’t have the “credentials”, but were dedicated, driven and brilliant at their jobs.

As someone who is a professional teacher in Canada (and a student for many years), I’ve met many “professional” license-holding teachers who were lazy, inept and sloppy at their jobs. I suppose the same can be said for some journalists.

I would like to say something to all the journalists who represent foreign news organizations in Japan during this crisis. Please do your research and get the story right before you publish it! You are the reason my family back home is scared out of their minds. You are the reason so many expats in Japan have scared families in their respective countries. Honour the people of Japan by getting the story right!

Here are just a few bloggers in Japan who are doing an incredible job spreading the news of the crisis in Japan with the rest of the world (some are also journalists I respect a lot):

Mutant Frog Travelogue
Slices of Soup
Martyn Williams
Tokyo Times
Hiroko Tabuchi
Justin McCurry
Steve Herman
Mark Williams
Mark MacKinnon

You need to follow these folks on Twitter, read their blogs or newspaper stories!

I will add to this list as there are many more awesome people out there I follow on Twitter and other means who are doing a great job!

Here is a great video from You Tube video blogger elevencolors who lives in downtown Tokyo. In this video he illustrates a MASSIVE mistake in reporting made by Fox News:

You can of course follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev


Belial said...

As a former expat in Japan back in the States now, I am VERY frustrated with the news coverage here. Thanks for helpful links...found you through Twitter.

QiRanger said...

Yeah, people are sensationalizing way too much there.

Anonymous said...

I'm a Journalism student specialized in New Media and I have seen how Youtube and Twitter often present more accurate information because the 'citizen journalists' as mainstream journalists call them are in the know. They understand what they are talking about and thus can do more than repeat what is being fed to them.

When the earthquake happened I knew where to go for information and it wasn't the mainstream news agencies. I see it this way the bottom line often means bottom of the barrel information.