Earthquake, Tsunami and Fukushima Nuclear Crisis in Japan, One Year After – Media Impact Analysis

In this first anniversary of the massive disaster and tragedy suffered by Japanese people by 11 March 2011, we want to show with our readers some of the empirical results we gathered and learnt about media impact and reputation analysis.

This post is intended to be also a tribute to all victims of the catastrophe, specially to survivors. As many other people, I was astonished by the heroic civil society reaction to the disaster. In the midst of terrible suffering, this was really and profoundly inspiring.

I would like to share with you a video that was created and sent to me by a reader of this post a while ago. This is a highly emotional video, as you can imagine. As Lucy explained,

I’m an Australian poet/lyricist based in Canberra. A short while ago I finished a project with an American singer and producer Rick Tallis – a song dedicated to the Japanese people who died or lost their loved ones in the tsunami last March. This song is a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah with re-written lyrics that talk about a child trapped in the rubble with their mother after the tsunami. The video of the song is now out on Youtube – a slide show of some very powerful images of the event. We would like to get the song heard and would be very grateful if you could listen to it and watch the video and share it with others, as we believe the pain and suffering caused by this tragic event is ongoing. We strongly believe that to remember is to care, especially now that it’s coming up to the first anniversary of this tragic event. We would appreciate any feedback or suggestions on how to spread the word regarding this project.

Kind regards,

Lucy Prasad

I think that this video shows the soul of this tragedy with respect, and transmits the humanity of Humanity: disaster, tragedy, immense and unbearable suffering, tears, crying and despair, injustice and grievance. Death, mourning, abandonment, loneliness. And sacrifice, struggle and fight, heroic efforts, endurance, strength, serenity and hope. Smiles and laughts. Future. Life.

If you are looking for images comparing before-after, you can check the images in the following external sources:

Before-After the earthquake and tsunami; satellite images

New York Times

El Mundo, Spain

Aftermath of the devastating effects – one year after.

New York Times

El País, Spain

See also the series by Good Morning America

Our analysis.

We pubished our first results about media impact just in the aftermath of the tsunami, still 11 March 2011, showing how the disaster was aprehended by international media, when almost nothing was know about the devstating effects, except as for the magnitude of the earthquake, measured at first at 8.9 points Richter scale. We compared initially the news content profile about the earthquake and the tsunami against news about Wikileaks, concerning their association to scandal and tragedy. This was due to the fact that all our previous post referred to the news content analysis to Wikileaks related issues.

This was followed a day after by our first analysis about media reaction to first blast in Fukushima nuclear plant. That day there was no possibility to assess the extent of the ongoing problems as possible nuclear crisis. In our third post we compared initial media coverage of tsunami in Japan against other recent tragedies or disasters, like Haiti and Chile Earthquakes 2010, Duisburg Love Parade Stampede.

We had another post measuring initial media reaction to Fukushima blast. We considered that media did not react quickly, in accordance with the foreseable crisis impact of the events. Only 12-24 hours after the blast, international media attention turned to the analysis of the implications of the nuclear plant blast. This was a 13 March 2011 post.

Using our media impact techniques, we published a first post about the cities in Japan that received more international media attention. Being able to idenify which are the cities most present in the news in a pure quanitative way allow you to identify where the focus of a crisis is located.

Results in the figure below shows the evolution of the media coverage given to main cities in the four first days after the tsunami.

Sendai was the region most devastated by the tsunami (and the one with more available video footage in the beginning). Fukushima exceeded Sendai as international media reference by the end of 12 March.

Then came the second adn third blasts in Fukushima nuclear plant, by 15 March 2012. Events turned dramatic, as it became clear that the situation was completely uncontrolled. We measured the news content profile about second blast in comparision with those about the first explosion. We had a substantial increase of news profile association to tragedy and scandal. The vector components more sensitive to second blast were ‘worrying’, ‘mistake’, ‘harm’ and ’embarrassing’.

By 18 March 2011 we run a comparative media content analysis by countris about Fukushima nuclear crisis. We shoewd how the crisis was explained by media from the United States, India, United Kingdom and Australia. Below there is an example of the findings.

We published two post, always using our own techniques for media impact analysis, about the companies from Europe and America most affected by Japan earthquake, tsunami or Fukushima nuclear crisis. We show below the tables, and you can chek if you wish the posts in order to know more about the list.

Companies from Europe most affected by the Japan earthquake, tsunami, nuclear crisis, measured by media impact.

Companies from the United States most affected by the Japan earthquake, tsunami, nuclear crisis, measured by media impact.

Once that the initial stage of ermegency and rescue was concluded, it appeared a more clear picture of the extent of the devastation and tragedy by casualties. Many people were looking for information about the cities most affected by the earthquake and tsunami. Even if data about casualties and damages existed, it is hard to establish a list of cities, as the effects are not comparable: there are people killed by the earthquake and the tsunami, there are people missing mainly in areas devastated by the tsunami, there are buildings and infrastructure destroyed by the direct effect of the massive earthquake, or razed by the tsunami. There are finally villages and areas abandoned due to the nuclear crisis.

We wanted to provide an answer of how media perceived or focused attention in each  component of the disaster. We monitored the media impact received internationally by all cities and locations with more thn 10.000 inhabitants in relationship with tsunami, earthquake or nuclear crisis.

We published a post with the list of cities most affected by the disaster, based exclusively by the media attention received since 11 March 2011. For each city, we provided the available information concerning casualties and damages. We provided information about this table in the blog post. This is the blog entry that has received more visits.

In another related post, we investigated the relationship between media coverage received by each prefecture and the kind of casualties and damages suffered, as shown in the following figure.

We explored the existence of media bias by checking how New York Times and Wall Street Journal covered Fukushima nuclear crisis. We wanted to see if the Japanese crisis was presented by leading American  newspapers showing different perceptions concerning a very sensitive issue also in terms of local business and politics. We covered this news content analysis of the nuclear crisis storyline in two different posts (post 1, post 2).

Our analysis suggested that New York Times presented Fukushima crisis in a most dramatic way, or, conversely, that Wall Street Journal explained it in a more indulgent way. Wall Street Journal was as expected more focussed on issues with economic and commercial implications. Below, the example of a couple of figures of the analysis.

Concerning the media coverage given to Fukishima nuclear crisis, we followed an indirect indicator showing how serious the accident was judged by the media. We measured the prevalence of news about Fukushima mentioning past nuclear accidents, like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. We published the time evolution of this measure right after Fukushima was declared a Level 7 (max) accident. This was 12 April 2012. Things worsened later, but we did not publish additional pots about this topic in this blog.

We run also a reputation an communications crisis case that emerged within the framework of the Japanese tsunami. Comedian Gilbert Gottfired was ‘the voice’ of AFLAC duck, a very popular and main brand asset of this American insurance company with a very strong presence in Japan. He published some tweets with jokes about the tsunami with an awful bad taste and sense of the opportunity. He was inmediately fired.

We performed a reputation crisis analysis based again in news content analysis. We eventually published a report with the results, that you can download here.

Our findings show that even if the nes about the jokes tarnished AFLAC reputation, as shown for instance in the figure below, quick response taken by the comany preserved the quality of the media perception about the AFLAC mascot. We also compare how media portrayed the controversy about the jokes with media treatment given to other topics judged irreverent and polemic like South Park, The Simpsons and nuclear episode.

Full report includes media perception of AFLAC in comparison with competitors like Metlife, Prudential Financial or Aetna.


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  1. Pingback: Cities most affected by Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis, in terms of media coverage « Crisis, Media, Reputation

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