Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Vs Wikileaks: Media Coverage of Disasters

(update below, with data 12 hours after the earthquake)

I could not restrain to consider and then check to which extent Wikileaks revelations and all related issues are portrayed by the media as a disaster, a tragedy. Just few hours ago (first draft of this post is written at 12:45 pm, CET) the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake hit Japan. Dead toll is now raising and an international alert of a massive tsunami is active. In this moment we know only about the impact of the tsunami in the coasts of Japan. More damages are feared when the tsunami wages will reach other countries. Only few minutes ago we knew that there is an energy emergency alert as a nuclear site is under fire as a consequence of the earthquake.

This is the present context of all what we know and all what the media is showing in the news and written articles. Our aim is to show which is the media profile of the news about the Japan quake and the Japan tsunami at this very early stage, against the media coverage given to Wikileaks in the first wage of revelations, during the first month of continious leaks about US diplomatic cables (note: by mistake, we are showing if fact not the initial media profile of Wikileaks, but the most recent news about Wikileaks, during February 2011).

Our data refers to the first 5.700 news published in English about the eartkquake, up to 9:30 am, ECT, March 11 2011 (three hours after the earthquake).

With this post we show the similarities and the differences in terms of media reputation of Wikileaks againts a major disaster like the Japan earthquake and tsunami. We show the three more relevant brand vectors associated to disasters and catastrophes: “Coherent, Respected”, “Scandal” and “Tragedy”.

As for the first vector, we find that Wikileaks news were much more sensitive to ethical and reputational concerns than Japan disaster is.

Wikileaks is also more associated than the Japan earthquake to all components related to the “Scandal” brand vector. Only awful is an exception.

The third brand vector “Tragedy” is the one expected to be highly associated to Japan disaster. It is indeed. But at this initial stage, where there is a lot of incertitude about the final impact of what is right now to be a big catastrophe, we find that news about Wikileaks were even more associated to “Tragedy” than Japan.

Japan news about the quake and tsunami are more associated than Wikileaks to the components catastrophic and worst. But at this moment, and by comparison, Wikileaks media coverage considered Wikileaks content more linked to components like horrible, failure, harm or even tragedy than Japan.

This result is a clear example of the reputational impact of all institutions or persons affected by Wikileaks cables, when they refer to questionable decisions and behaviour.

New update, 12 hours after the earthquake.

At this stage, media coverage becomes massive, as it appears clear the the probable dead toll will be much higher than the dozens announced after the first hours. Dramatic video footage showing the colossal impact of the tsunami in the northern coasts of Japan obliges to expect a terrible number of human casualties. Unnofficial figures now speak about more than 1,000 killed. In constrast, the damage of the tsunami in other Pacific countries appears to be low right now.

Using our data set of newspapers and our methodology, we have identified and content analyzed some 18,000 news in English about the Japan earthquake. We compare in the following figure how the media coverage is evolving between the news generated in the first three hours (some 5,700 news) against the profile twelve hours after the earthquale (some 18,000) news. We select the brand vector “Tragedy”. As it can be observed with the results, media treatment of Japan disaster is increasing the association of it to the components tragedy, catastrophic and horrible, while the other components remain stable.

So now, if we compare again media coverage of Wikileaks against Japan earthquake, this last disaster is about to outpace Wikileaks in terms of being associated to a tragedy and catastrophic, but still Wikileaks vehiculates a worse media image as for horrible and harm.

Japan V. Japan Earthquake Media Impact by Cities

Japan IV. Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Media Coverage Evolution

Japan III. Japan Earthquake Initial Media Coverage: Comparison with 2010 Disasters Haiti, Chile and Turkey Earthquakes

Japan II. Fukushima Explosion Media Coverage vs Wikileaks: Portraying Fears of an Unknown and Uncontrolled Disaster

Japan I. Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Vs Wikileaks: Media Coverage of Disasters