Cable News Coverage of Japan Crisis Comes Under Fire

Mar 15, 2011  •  Post A Comment

The major cable news outlets are drawing heat for their handling of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, with TV critic Tim Goodman of The Hollywood Reporter among the most vocal critics.

“The triple threat in Japan–earthquake, tsunami, nuclear reactors in peril–is clearly demonstrating how reporters and anchors are bungling the basics and how the producers and executives in charge of them have fallen woefully short of leadership,” Goodman writes in THR. “How is it possible that on Monday evening (Tuesday in Japan), with the earthquake, tsunami and worries about radiation poisoning engulfing Japan, a CNN reporter can ask this question: ‘How scary has this been for you?’”

Goodman says the work being done at CNN’s competitors is even worse, with Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC all drawing sharp criticism. So who is getting the story right? Non-U.S.-based online organizations, says Goodman.

“The best coverage–by far–is taking place online by the likes of Japanese network NHK English, the BBC and Al-Jazeera English,” Goodman writes. “Deeper content is, of course, available from print outlets like The New York Times and such, but all natural disasters and wars are visual stories benefiting from moving pictures. And so CNN often becomes the default channel–so their faults, noted here, should then be applied on down to the line to those TV news outlets in this country who fall below CNN (not in ratings, naturally, but quality content).”

Goodman says the failure of television coverage of the Japan disaster comes down to three main areas: lack of planning, perspective and focus.


  1. What a bunch of hooey. Everyone’s a critic–and the media is overloaded with critics. The CNN coverage (and its international channel) are doing superb broadcasting of the tragedy in Japan. Sending Cooper over there with Gupta and others is a smart move–they get in up to their necks and report what they see and what they learn. I read two newspapers daily; I turn to CNN and MSNBC for instantaneous news reports. If one wishes to criticize a cable channel, what’s a better target than the smarmy Nancy Grace and that idiot Jane Velez Mitchell? Both revel in the misery of others. The blood’s on their hands, as much as on the perpetrators.

  2. I noticed a sharp difference in coverage between CNN and Fox News this weekend, regarding the issue of a nuclear meltdown. While CNN was presenting timely information and brought on calm, intelligent experts to discuss the situation, Fox News was much more shrill, trying to stir up fear and anxiety over the situation. Old habits die hard

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