On Friday afternoon I was in the gym. Then, as what usually happens, automated earthquake alerts came up on all the TVs. This is quite normal and there were three other big earthquakes before last Friday and nobody was hurt. This time the magnitude, we don’t use Richter scale over here, came up as 8.4 so the TVs all changed to live news coverage of the quake. People would need more information than just the locations and magnitudes. Buildings were swaying and we saw it all live on TV. But it wasn’t that serious.
Then, again as usual, tsunami alerts came up on TV. Now we always see those but people usually just ignore them as they never actually arrive. This time of course it was different and we watched the live TV feeds of the tsunami hitting the ports and coast.
By this time the TV presenters had realized that for the first time that the tsunamis were real and the style of presentation changed. The presenters sat up straight and the training went in to practice and they started giving out evacuation details and telling us exactly what areas and at exactly what times would be affected. People were shocked at how far the tsunamis came in but there was no panic, they were reporting things exactly as they happened and focussed on helping people get the right information to get to the safest places as quickly as possible.
Then my email started going crazy. People from all over the world were writing to see where I was and was I safe. I started to reply but there were too many emails and I was wondering why. The Japanese TV was showing exactly the locations were things were happening in and were giving out all the information. It was a huge area, but not all the country. There was no panic or “the end is nigh” sentiments. It was well rehearsed and everyone was doing exactly what they had been trained to do.
But then I switched across to the BBC and oh my goodness, what a contrast! Make no wonder everyone overseas was panicking. Forget any pretence of informative news, this was purely emotionally driven exaggeration on the part of the BBC. Whilst Japanese news was giving out information about what areas were affected by what size waves, the BBC was giving voice overs like “death approaches by the sea.” They reshowed the footage of Sendai from when the quake hit but this time with voice overs like “blinded with panic not knowing where to turn.” Well, no. That’s not what was happening. When a quake hits you look around, you see what’s happening. When it goes on longer your heart starts beating and you wonder if the building will indeed stand up to the shaking. But you don’t panic. And the people on TV weren’t panicking, contrary to what the English speaking reporters were making up.
Then over the last few days Ive been watching Japanese press events and thinking, OK, we know what’s happening now. But then you see the Western media reports and you think,”were they just watching the same news conference?” They’d obviously heard a very bad translation of the Japanese and just made up the pieces in-between. Phrases like 一所懸命 which means “try to your fullest” or “do the best you can” got translated to “furiously” or “desperately”, words which have totally different meanings.
Then today we have the nuclear reports with the press completely misreporting the science. Google News at one point yesterday had a picture of an atmospheric atomic bomb detonation, the daily mail today had a full colour picture of the the Hiroshima nuclear attack. That is just not on. Yes radiation can be dangerous but a light water reactor is not a nuclear bomb. This is just irresponsible reporting.
We know why they do it, to sell newspapers or these days to have the dramatic headline to the get the internet click. But they have crossed the line somewhere here. This is the first time I’ve seen the original language reporting on an event and then how the English language media report it and they are just getting so many facts wrong, purposely mis translating the Japanese and reframing the story to their mind set to sell more copy.
It makes you wonder just how many other stories over the years they have mislead us on. Well, the Swine Flu was one of them.
It’s not the earthquake
The story here isn’t the earthquake. Japan gets through these all the time. The story here is the tsunami as that is something that people weren’t prepared for. For example last night, on Japanese TV, they were asking why there still wasn’t enough food in the evacuation centres. The professor calmly and professionally explained. It’s because when they did the disaster relief planning they put all their focus on the rescue teams. They always figured that in an earthquake teams would be a able to go and get frozen food out of people’s deep freezers so they wouldn’t need to bring food in for a few days. Of course in this case deep freezers and everything were washed away. He apologised and reported they would have to go back to the drawing board for the future.
But contrast that the foreign media reports of panic and “people resorting to eating dried noodles and rice balls.”Well, no. A nice warm rice ball is a very welcome meal in a situation like this. Similarly the reporting about the cold. Yes it is freezing up there but that’s how people live normally with no insulation and just kerosene heaters.
I wish the foreign media would stop the scaremongering, listen to the people there and start reporting on what they need and how we can help.
Ah sorry, but that doesn’t sell newspapers does it.
Most of Japan is just fine. Yesterday I drove 400 kms over many islands and everything is, a little eerily, just like normal. Japan hasn’t sunk into the sea and the country isn’t covered with radioactive rain. Most of us are fine, people are going to work and we have electricity. For most of the country everything is normal.
Yes lots of people have died. But even just one person dying is too hard if they are close to you. And many people die in Japan everyday from smoking, car accidents or other reasons.
So let’s concentrate on how we can help the people who really need the help. People in Japan don’t sit around waiting for government handouts after a disaster, we get out there and fix things. The guys were out in the streets the next day trying to clean up their towns and the old ladies did what they always do and formed their own teams to try and cook for everyone.
In the Christchurch Earthquake we saw families from all over New Zealand offering up beds for evacuees to get away. And it might seem a little strange that people down south haven’t been doing the same for the people up north here. But that’s not how things are done and people want to stay in their furusato, their home.
Sending items won’t help as there is no way to get them there. There were break downs in the planning but there is nothing we can do to help with that. So if you do want to contribute, financially seems to be the best way. And it seems like the Red Cross is probably the best way to do that.
What can teachers do?
Then as we are all teachers we want to focus on the kids. Most adults here are used to disasters but for the kids for whom this is their first time it does take time for them to get their heads around this. Things will be OK for the survivors but they do need help. On yesterday’s thread Gumby suggested that kids abroad send their messages of support to the kids in the evacuation centers. They aren’t going to be able to go to school for a while, but a nice drawing, picture or message on their cell phones would let them know how much your kids are thinking about them. We’re already collected messages for teachers here but let’s also try and figure out the best way of doing this and let’s let the kids up north know that they are not alone.
They don’t need the panic. They just need a hand getting things back to normal.