Posted by: atlantiza | March 14, 2011

Foreign Disaster Info via Social Media

In this post: Failure of Western media for Touhoku earthquake, using social media to acquire information about major events in foreign countries, many links for official sites and streams related to the Touhoku earthquake. Beware of wall of text.

Failure of Western Media in Covering Japan

Within 6 to 12 hours of the Touhoku earthquake, I began to recognize the essential failure of American news coverage of the event. CNN, probably regarded as America’s most reliable (or least failing?) national, 24/7 news channel, was repeating the same few clips from NHK with little to no new information. They talked to an American tourist in Japan via telephone, but that was about the extent of their original Japanese coverage besides the fact that an earthquake happened.  They called officials in Hawaii to report on their preparations, and they talked to someone from the White House. But there was more random American talk than actual news updates on the situation in Japan. They had access to NHK live but did not always show it. When they did show it, it rarely was given the full screen and never had any audio. Even without understanding Japanese, the live NHK feed would have been much more useful than their random blabbering.

In the following days, I also heard of the failures of European coverage.  German news specifically seemed to be overreacting according to various social media sources (see, this article could even be “Learning About Failure News Reports via Social Media”). They were claiming Fukushima Nuclear was either as bad or worse than Chernobyl but this is not the case.

Western media in general now seems to be reporting misinformation or even cleverly leaving out key pieces of information. Last night, NBC (American TV station) aired a special about the situation in Japan. They mentioned that radiation was detected at Onagawa Nuclear but left out the fact that this radiation was supposedly blew (in the wind) from Fukushima Nuclear. Two or three nights ago (sorry if I get days wrong; lately I’m mixing up last night EST, two nights ago EST, and last night Japan), ABC (another American TV station) aired a similar news special. At the very beginning of the special, they reported that the earthquake was “8.8 magnitude on the Richter scale.” This was before the magnitude was corrected, so the number was correct. However, the major error here is the unit of measurement. It was not Richter scale. All of the magnitudes that you have heard (previous 8.8, updated 9.0, even aftershock magnitudes) are on the moment magnitude scale. I was told that this earthquake on the Richter scale would have less than a 0.5 magnitude difference, but I think that it is an extremely basic failure to report it on the wrong scale. Just because the American public is more familiar with the term “Richter scale” (I say term because few people probably actually understand the scale, including myself) does not mean it should be slapped on out of laziness or assumption.

I could really go on and on about the American media failures that I’ve witnessed (and had to verbally correct for my household), but the brick of text above is not what I wanted to write about. I don’t know how all of that ended up there! I apologize.

What I wanted to write about is how to use social media to receive accurate information about situations in foreign countries, especially if you do not understand that country’s language. If you do understand the country’s language but are simply residing elsewhere, this post will still be helpful to you. Most of the information that I’ve received via social media has been real-time updates. That is to say that the updates I’ve received are at more or less (sometimes delayed 30 seconds or so depending on the source) the same time as the update occurs in Japan.

Foreign Disaster Info via Social Media

As I walk you through this, I’m going to use Japan as an example since the events in Japan were what prompted me to use social media as a source and hence what prompted me to write this.

First, you need to gather some basic news information about the country involved. Find out the major news sources in the country. As a weeaboo, I already knew the major news sources of Japan, but I’ll try to give ways to find this information. If you know someone living in the country or someone who has lived in the country long-term at some point in their life, try asking them. If they lived their for a long time, they more than likely watched the news at some point! Googling “japanese news stations” seemed to be useful; the first result is a Wikipedia article for “Japanese News Network” which is indeed one of the major news stations in the country. Scrolling past random streaming sites that I’ve never heard of leads to a link for “NHK WORLD English.” This is useful too. NHK is another major Japanese station, and NHK World translates some of their broadcasts. NHK World is not always live, but during major live conferences, they do translate the conference live with minimal delay.

Once you find out some major news stations of the country involved, try to find out if they are officially streaming live anywhere. Go to the stations’ sites and look for some of the following things: an embedded media player, a menu button or text link that says something like “LIVE” or “WATCH NOW” (even if it is a country that doesn’t speak English, they may still use these words), buttons or links to sites that have the ability to stream live (USTREAM, YouTube, maybe even a video site in another language that is popular in the country). For Japan, TBS’ (the Tokyo branch of Japanese News Network) news site has a button linking to USTREAM. NHK also has live streaming buttons (with Japanese text) on their front page for USTREAM, Nico Nico Douga (a popular Japanese video site), and even Yahoo Japan. They also have English buttons for NHK WORLD streaming on USTREAM and Nico Nico Douga. NHK WORLD’s own page has an embedded live stream. Although the buttons on TBS and NHK have their text written in Japanese, hovering over the button should display the URL that it links to in almost all browsers. So when in doubt, try hovering over every link and button on the front page and look for familiar video sites.

If the major news stations of the country don’t seem to have any official streams, try searching on USTREAM (or any other popular live streaming sites that you may know of) for the name of the channel to see if anybody is personally streaming the channel. I actually found someone personally streaming NHK before I found out that they had an official stream.

If you’ve found a stream of a major news station in the country, you’re already ahead of your own country’s media probably. Even without understanding the country’s language, you can probably draw conclusions about the most important updates. If the current news report seems to end randomly or the news reporter suddenly stops talking and switches to another video feed, it’s possible that something new is happening or has just happened. Even though I don’t understand any of the Japanese talk about Fukushima Nuclear, when Daiichi No.3 experienced a hydrogen explosion, NHK cut to a very recent video of the plant. There was an explosion and the on-screen text included a lot of Japanese and then the number 3. It was easy to interpret the very basics of what had happened. However, while I encourage you to attempt some interpretation, if you do not speak the language and try to draw conclusions, please do not broadcast your supposed discovery via Twitter, Facebook, etc. unless you are absolutely sure of the situation. This is how misinformation gets spread. Please do not contribute to the probably already overwhelming amount of misinformation.

Now let’s try to find some fast English-language sources. Since you’re reading this huge post, I assume you’re able to read English! You can try to follow these steps for your own language if you speak another language, but it might be more difficult. First, see if the streaming site you are on has some kind of chat or social media integration. It’s possible that someone in there is already translating the important parts of the stream into English. If nobody is doing so, try kindly asking in English if someone can translate some of the recent news. Some kind Japanese people on NHK’s USTREAM have been randomly translating at some parts. And if they are online, some of them will start translating again if you ask. They don’t want to translate if nobody needs it at the moment though, so it’s OK to ask as long as you are respectful about it!

If a kind person (or sometimes even multiple people) has started translating for you and fellow worldwide viewers, that’s great! You can now get almost instantaneous updates. But maybe you want a little more than 100-character translations of random parts. Well, we can try, but even I did not expect this to be possible for the situation in Japan. I never expected something like this to happen really. I don’t know how often it would happen for other countries, but you can at least try. Try looking for independent (unaffiliated to news stations) people constantly translating new information live via social media sites such as USTREAM (on their own channel, not just translating in chat), Twitter, or even blogs. A day or so after the earthquake took place in Japan, I learned of the wonderful USTREAM channel “Yokoso News.” Katz, the channel owner, has been translating press conferences and other new information live on the air for at least 12 hours for the past three or four days. Many of his viewers, myself included, are extremely grateful for his tremendous work. Hopefully, in the event of future disasters in other countries (although I truly hope that such disasters would not even happen), an independent person in the country will do something similar.

Useful Links for Current Japanese Info

NHK Official Site
NHK Official Twitter
NHK Official “On Air” Twitter (Streaming updates)

Nico Nico Live for NHK
Yahoo GyaO! for NHK
Twitter Hashtag for NHK

NHK Educational Official Site (Not useful for earthquake info, but in case you need it…)
Yahoo GyaO! for NHK Educational
Unofficial USTREAM for NHK Educational (Official turned off, supposedly to conserve power?)

NHK Radio 1
NHK Radio 1, alternate version (Both Radio 1 links are official; try this if first doesn’t work)

NHK WORLD Official Site

Nico Nico Live for NHK WORLD
Twitter Hashtag for NHK WORLD

TBS News Official Site
TBS News Official Twitter
Nico Nico Live for TBS
Youtube for TBS
Twitter Hashtag for TBS

Yokoso News Official Site (Do not mass refresh if it doesn’t work at first)
Yokoso News Official Twitter
USTREAM for Yokoso News
Twitter Hashtag for Yokoso News

TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) Official Site
TEPCO Official English Site (Does not immediately translate press releases)


I don’t know how useful the information in this post will be for you in the event of a major event in another country. Everything will depend on the country and its people. Please always be respectful to anybody translating for you. They are going out of their way during a disaster situation to bring information to you. If you are confident of some information, try to correct any misinformation you encounter, whether it’s online or in real life. Message people tweeting misinformation with the correct information. When your friends or family mention misinformation, tell them the correct information. I believe that the key to making the most of news via social media is minimizing misinformation and disseminating the correct information.

And if anybody from Twitter reads this post, I apologize for all of my “spam” recently. I am translating and forwarding translations for people on USTREAM channels nhk-gtv and tbstv, as well as correcting misinformation from foreigners that I see on those channels. Probably from tomorrow on their will be a lot less tweets via USTREAM from me. Please understand why I have been tweeting so much.

If anybody has any questions (lol like you actually read this), feel free to leave a comment on this post with your question and I will try my best to reply to it. Sorry that I have not translated lyrics in a long time too…


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