April 20, 2011

For Japan Coverage, It’s All Nuclear

Japan Earthquake Haiti Earthquake
Nuclear Danger 67
Death tolls Damage 20 50
Foreign Aid 2 31
Future of Japan 2
Orphans/ Refugees 11
Rioting and Crime 2

67% – Amount of Japan coverage focused on possible nuclear danger

It has been more than five weeks since the devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan, leaving more than 25,000 dead or missing and triggering the worst nuclear radiation scare in 25 years. During that time (March 11—April 17), Japan earthquake coverage accounted for 21% of the newshole, just behind coverage of the unrest in the Middle East (24%) and ahead of the economy (14%), according to PEJ’s News Coverage Index.

The runaway storyline of the Japan disaster is the unstable nuclear reactors badly damaged by the quake. With radiation leaking into drinking water, crops and the atmosphere and the threat of a nuclear meltdown, attention to nuclear danger accounted for two-thirds (67%) of all Japan earthquake coverage.

This is more than three times the coverage focused on the death toll, rescue efforts and physical damage which accounted for 20% of the newshole.  And just 2% focused on international aid to the country, which Japan so far has mostly turned down.

This is quite a different mix of coverage than that of last year’s major earthquake in Haiti.  In the five weeks following the January 12, 2010 Haitian earthquake (January 12—February 15), a full 50% of coverage focused on death tolls (as many as 300,000) and damage caused by the earthquake. And 31% was devoted to foreign aid.

Tricia Sartor of PEJ