Citizen journalism captures horrors of Japanese tsunami
19/03/2011 2 Comments
When a fifteen-metre tsunami hit the North East coast of Japan on Friday 11 March the world’s media was left stunned and scrambling to respond. The BBC 24-hour channel streamed footage from Japanese broadcaster NHK while the Australian news channel ABC News 24 received criticism for reverting to using BBC coverage and at other times using scheduled programming, so little material did it have.
In these instances the most useful footage was gathered by the residents of Sendai who witnessed the giant wave arrive. Some managed to scramble onto bridges above the water level and produce footage much more powerful than that gathered by any broadcaster. Indeed, before foreign news channels were able to send out correspondents and camera crews, it was this citizen journalism the world relied on.
Not only did this grass roots, citizen journalism, reach the action where trained journalists could not, but it captured the awesome power of the tsunami in a way that nothing else could have. The anguished cries of onlookers in the background and the realistic, shaky quality of some of these videos makes them more hard-hitting and valuable.
Thanks to footage recorded by victims of the tsunami, and the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that preceded it, we are shown the reaction of those caught up in the disaster. And that human interest is more significant than the natural disaster itself. Here are a few examples:
Amateur footage of the wave’s arrival
The tsunami engulfs Sendai airport
A supermarket shopper records the arrival of the earthquake inland
Brave resident records earthquake damage in her home
Especially in the last of these videos we can learn something about the pursuit of citizen journalism in dangerous situations. We are such a camera-ready society that even when an individual’s life is at risk they still think to record the experience.
Video credits: 1: HaarekV3