Japan Coverage-GlobalVoices

Posted on March 21, 2011

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It has been just over a week since an earthquake—ranked 8.9 on the Richter scale— and resulting tsunami tore through Japan. The media has been devoting a great deal of coverage to this story, which is obviously an important one considering the rising death toll, extensive destruction, and nuclear emergency that resulted from this natural disaster.  I have been following the story in several ways; I watch the Nightly News with Brian Williams, read the New York Times coverage and I read stories written by citizen journalists on www.globalvoicesonline.com.

I have to admit that last part is a recent addition to my normal news routine. I decided to check out the site last week after reading “When Unrest Occurs, Bloggers Already in Place”  , and have continued to check back since.

In terms of organization, I think the site is extremely easy to navigate. That might not be saying much since I have grown up using computers.  Perhaps the fact that I can imagine my mom using this site is more meaningful in illustrating it’s clear design.

The NYT article says the site averages half a million hits each month; I think this site is successful not only because it provides a sense of unity among bloggers from all over the world, but also because it presents various social and digital mediums as one harmonious, cohesive unit. While it can be exhausting and honestly pretty annoying to try to decide where to go to for information on a story, this site is sort of like one-stop shopping. I can look at a map of Japan, watch a video of workers sifting through rubble, and read an entry on the science behind the catastrophe all in one place.

When looking at  this page, which is like a table of contents for the site’s Japan coverage, both twitter and Facebook share buttons are available at the top of the screen.  This makes it easy for readers to quickly share any page they find interesting with their friends or followers.

There is a list of the latest posts about Japan, above a complete list of every post since the topic was created. The posts are listed by date and by country posted in; personally, I thought this was one of the best things about the organization of the site. I can easily click “Ukraine: Comparing Fukushima to Chernobyl?”, “Japan: Toxic Rain, Earthquake Weapons and Other False Rumors” and “South Korea: Old Feuds Forgotten as Koreans React to Japan Quake” to get three different perspectives on different stories relating to the quake.

Toward the middle of the page, there is a live twitter feed embedded on the page along with a list of hashtags for readers to use while following the coverage, or perhaps joining the conversation, on twitter. I was surprised to see Japanese words—like #jisin, which means earthquake—along with words in English. It is strange—in a refreshing way—to see a site cater to so many people who speak different languages; most of the articles can be translated into at least 7 different languages with the click of a button.

There are also links to other helpful related websites, like the Google Crisis Response page and a wordpress site where those looking to volunteer in Japan can find more information. Several map links are included, one showing locations of impromptu shelters  with another depicting flooded areas.

In terms of digital media, there are pictures and videos straight from Japan—no editing included, just snapshots and videos taken on cell phone cameras. This post  illustrates the power that drives this website.

 It gives visitors a different perspective on things going on in the news; instead of listening to good ol’ Brian tell me about what is happening in Japan, I can look at photos and videos taken by people who are living this story. When Brian tells me what is happening, it seems important—but also very distant. When viewing a video someone took on their cell phone while standing in a supermarket and watching the shelves rattle and the floor shake furiously, it is a more emotional experience.

I think this site is an important point of reference for anyone, especially journalism students. Not only can you get a plethora of information from sources that you would otherwise not hear from, but it is interesting to look at the site in terms of all that it incorporates. By embracing popular social mediums and weaving them together with blog posts by ordinary citizens from around the world, visitors to the site are given the opportunity to take an active role in news stories.

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