I haven't been posting often here because, ironically, I've been too busy writing for the web on my blog H5N1—especially about the consequences of the earthquakes in New Zealand and Japan. But The Tyee has published my article "Shaky Coverage in Japan," which deals in large part with the bloggers and tweeters reporting on the multiple disasters of March 11. Excerpt:
In Japan, the story arc has been complicated: We don't know much about the Japanese or about nuclear power, so we fall back on even more stereotypes: brave samurai, stoic peasants, evil bureaucrats and ticking time bombs.
The Japanese themselves, and long-resident foreigners, are keenly aware of how the story arc misrepresents them and their present problems. And in a literate, fully wired society, they are pushing back online against the stereotypes.
Go to #JPQuake and you'll find individuals and Japanese news sources tweeting about the latest developments, including events that never reach the mainstream media. English-language Japanese media like Japan Today and NHK World provide calm, up-to-date reports
In one widely read post, Michael Gakuran wrote: "Even previously respectable papers seemed to be gripped by sensationalism and unable to report the basic facts needed to keep people from worry... Something amazing was happening on Twitter, though. Those of us in Japan and able to understand Japanese noticed a stark contrast between the relatively calm Japanese media and foreign press... A team of citizen journalists had assembled and were disseminating information that was not only factually correct but balanced and peer-reviewed. A far cry from the exaggerated coverage by many professional journalists and in some cases reporting that bordered on the unethical."