March 11, 2021 marks the tenth anniversary of the devastating tsunami in Japan. The tsunami was triggered after an 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the largest ever recorded in the country, took place at the epicentre that lay 130 km offshore the city of Sendai in Miyagi prefecture on the eastern coast of Honshu Island. Nearly 20,000 people lost their lives when the country also witnessed its worst nuclear disaster at Fukushima in this catastrophic event.
The media coverage of this event remained pretty much factual as reporters and media houses tried to report important information. However, the objectivity did lose some ground when the reporters wrote opinion pieces or were asked to describe what they saw.
According to a 2015 research conducted by Japanese academics, most of the journalists admitted that covering the tsunami event was much more difficult than their previous experiences in the profession, especially when it came to guaranteeing the objectivity of coverage.
The study also found that reporters struggled with curbing their own strong negative emotions when covering the distressing disaster. Once their stories were published, even if the writers had doubts about the objectivity of their reporting, readers may understand their reporting as a description of objective facts, mentioned in the research.
The study mentioned that the readers may have also expected media reports to contain not only objective information but also emotional information of the type that can strongly affect understandings of the event. In an online survey conducted of over 115 journalists, the study found that the reporter’s evaluations of the objectivity of the published articles were quite low, especially for the coverage of the nuclear power plant accident, which was one of the worst nuclear disasters after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.
It will be 10 years from the Japan earthquake and tsunami on Thursday. @jameswdelano spent a week photographing Fukushima’s eerie landscapes. Take a look https://t.co/7oKslpnd5b pic.twitter.com/3Tgvc12g2Z— Mikko Takkunen (@photojournalism) March 10, 2021
Images on the front page of national and international newspapers painted a gloomy image of what happened when the tsunami engulfed entire regions in its embrace.
An Australian newspaper, Gold Coast Bulletin, ran a front page splash that showcased the horrifying image that emerged from the country and dubbed it as “3/11 nature’s terror attack.”
While American newspaper, The Boston Globe’s front-page headline read, “Quake, tsunami ravage Japan.” The newspaper also ran several graphics that explained how the event unfolded.
Ten years later, many media houses like Reuters, and AFP are sharing a then and now image to show how the places ravaged by the tsunami have recovered in appearance. However, they are also showing how the emotional and human loss of the disaster still remains.