Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fukushima News Reports from Japan? Brief Explanation of Japanese News Sources and Why Some are More Sensationalist Than Others

Recently there is lots of reporting about how "if there is another massive earthquake, even a small one like a 5 or 6, the spent rod fuel pool at Fukushima could collapse and destroy the country and cause 40 million people to be evacuated from Japan." I seriously think people need to relax and get a bit more realistic. Worrying about this is worrying about something that is conjecture or speculation...

There's lots of things to worry about, folks, but the support system of the spent fuel rods pool building wasn't destroyed by a 9.0 earthquake, the sixth biggest earthquake in history, the plant and the building was damaged by a tsunami. A 9.0 earthquake is about 8000 times more powerful than a 6.0 earthquake. If the steel structure at Fukushima stood up to a 9.0 quake - and has since been reinforced - then I wonder what the chances are of a 6.0 quake destroying it? 

What are the chances of another 9.0 quake? An event that happens about once in one-thousand years? 

The walls of the building were damaged by an explosion, for sure. But the current state of having no walls around the spent fuel pools building is because the walls that were damaged by the explosion have been removed on purpose. They were removed because a new covering wall is in the process of being constructed and damaged walls are not stable.

The construction of the new walls started yesterday.

The last four paragraphs above are facts. That is what "news" is supposed to be; facts. Let me say an opinion, that, it is possible, that the world will end because of Fukushima. In fact, I'd give the odds of that happening, perhaps, a bit higher percent than the odds of life on this world getting extinguished by a massive asteroid blasting the earth to smithereens in the next year; or the sign of the Apocalypse when the Beirut river runs red with blood; or the sun suddenly exploding; or me winning the year-end lottery (and not giving a toss about any of this anyhow while I'm sipping wine on a yacht in the Carribbean). 

Folks, serious people in Japan are not following this story about Fukushima being the end of Japan or life on this planet as we know it. It's certainly not because the government is suppressing the story, either. I reckon people have their reasons, but one of the biggest reasons is that the news services that are reporting this doomsday scenario are not credible news sources regardless of how many times they are repeated in the western press.

I love this headline!

I don't believe anything the press says anyway, but my reasons for not paying too much attention to this story about Fukushima, "ending life on the earth as we know it," is that there's many other things that are much more likely to kill me and I don't spend all day worrying about those either and, two, if it is the end of the earth, there's not another place I could move to that I know of. Is there?

But allow me to explain to the foreign audience the why's and what-fors as to why, in Japan's case, you need to consider the source about any news you hear... I'd like to just to put things in perspective for foreigners about Japan's news media....

In Japan, the TV networks are all affiliated with old school newspapers, so that explains editorial issues. Here are the five biggest news sources in Japan along with their political and business policy/slant. They are:

Sankei Shimbun (The most right wing of the major news sources. Pro-American, Anti-Chinese.)

Nikkei Shimbun (Pro business, pro market similar to Wall Street Journal. Affiliated with TV Tokyo)

Mainichi Shimbun (Liberal, often sensationalist)

Yomiuri Shimbun (Conservative. Most read newspaper in Japan. Populist positions. Affiliated with Nippon Television.)

Asahi Shimbun (The most left wing of the major news sources. Affiliated with TV Asahi)

Today, if we are talking about sensationalist reporting on Fukushima, then I'd like to talk about - must talk about - TV Asahi.

Asahi Newspaper

The news source that is reporting and running with this "Fukushima could be the end of the earth" scenario is TV Asahi. As stated, TV Asahi is affiliated with Asahi Shimbun but is a different company. Asahi news is Japan's oldest and second most circulated newspaper. Asahi Shimbun (newspaper) is second in circulation with about 8 million, but TV Asahi is one of the lowest rated national TV networks in Japan. If you realize that then it might make sense to you why they resort to really sensationalist reporting...

In TV Asahi's case, I suppose it's a chicken and the egg problem. Which came first? The sensationalist reporting or the bad ratings? So, now you know. There's a reason why TV Asahi's ratings are so bad. They've, for years, been guilty of sensationalist news reporting (if you can call it "news").

If it were Japan, Nancy Grace would be on TV Asahi

Another point that should make thinking people suspicious of anything Asahi news reports is that before the war (starting from the 1930s or so) Asahi news was an extremely right-wing publication and strongly supported the militarist  then prime minister of Fumimaro Konoe and was an ardent supporter of the war as well as harshly anti-captialist. After the war ended, they went 180 degrees the other way and are now the far left wing. They've been anti-business (pro-socialism and pro-statism) and anti-nuclear power since. 

If there is any news source in Japan who will be out in front first complaining about industry and these sorts of issues, it will be a leftist publication like Asahi Shimbun or TV Asahi. It is their audience.

That being said, TV Asahi's news is above and probably better than news sources like News of the World. So, if you like gossip and scandals, then they are the station for you...

If you want to watch "news" shows about the end of the world, then they have that everyday at about 9 am ~ 11:00 am as that's "Golden time" for housewives to watch TV...

People interested in serious news and economic reports do not tune to TV Asahi. They are not credible. In fact, to think that any TV news source is credible in this day and age is pure nonsense.


I have been living and working in Japan with the Navy since before the earthquake. The Navy has gone way overboard with radiation control measures and the only problem we have is that work gets stopped when we find radiation measurements that are about as high as you would find in a bunch of bananas. We have had a lot of nuclear trained officers and testing equipment on site since day one because we operate our own nuclear power plant on USS George Washington and the impact has been totally overblown. An "unprecedented" level of radiation can still be insignificantly low but just higher than normal.

- Fireman_Timmy


Andrew Joseph said...

Brilliant! I agree with you that the media loves its doomsday scenarios to sell the news. Having worked as a newspaper reporter for the Toronto Star, I can tell you that even a well-respected paper like that does not print all the news that is fit to print. It prints all the news IT thinks you want to read about. We all know that in the entire world on any given day, there are more than the 200 news items printed in a newspaper of 50 items in a TV news broadcast that occur. Why do they choose what they choose? They need something to sell.
Japan is hot. Nukes are hot. Ask one idiot for an opinion and you have a news story. A good media will get more than one opinion... it's probably why good magazine articles are so good... they interview multiple sources that prove a point and multiple sources that could also provide a counter-point.
The worst part is that the reader/viewer/consumer is so ready to believe anything it hears.
Remember when the Internet as we know it now first began back in the early 1990s? 90% of the stuff on the 'net back then was b.s.
I think that number is the same in 2012, but we also have more media with correct data to go with the 90% that is crap.
Keep fighting the good fight. Personally, not one person here in Toronto has come to me to discuss Japan's doom. They know I 'seem' to be knowledgeable on the subject - and yet, I don't think people here are all that gullible.
Seriously... I read that carp about how a smaller earthquake could explode Japan's reactors and I just laugh. I, too, thought about how the country survived major disasters and how the ultra-rare 9.0 Mag.quake if and when it hits Japan again will cripple the country... yeah... like you said - in a thousand years when the pressure builds up again. It's like people don't understand the sliding scale of destruction... how a 6.1 is not just a percentage point stronger than a 6.0!
The important thing is that the leaders do not buy into the media hype... and that the Japanese people do not either.
God damn fear-mongering.

Andrew Joseph said...

I mean 'crap' - not 'carp' - though a lot of carp could be a problem! Killer carp threaten to burst Japan's dams and government is doing nothing about it!

Anonymous said...

Andrew Joseph wrote, "Why do they choose what they choose?"

It could be they want to direct the herd in a certain direction? I'd suspect that much more than profits, considering who the owners are.

Also, I didn't know they were having carp problems in Japan too. The jumping grass carp here in the unitedstate are a menace, especially while boating or water skiing. Not too mention they eat everything and wipe out the local gamefish. I really really don't like carp, but they are not as bad as politicians or cops.

- clark

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