There has probably never been more instantaneous global access to disaster news than with the Japan Tsunami-quake crisis. Even with the devastation, Japan is totally connected digitally to the outside world. I have been monitoring a number of live streams – video, websites, and social feeds – in both Western language and Japanese, and am getting instant updates on tremors and fires and body counts just as quickly as people on the ground in Japan – maybe even faster because the Internet connection and power supply are not compromised at my end.
There is also not much in the news media about the level of public frustration toward official handling of the nuclear crisis.
Not so if you are watching the Japanese social stream. Ustream is providing live feeds of both NHK and TBS in Japanese, which is accompanied by an extremely active and angry-sounding commentary from Japanese viewers. There are too many colorful remarks to list here, but the short version is that they are sick of most of what they are seeing and hearing on TV. They are tired of vague, chaotic press conferences held by TEPCO utility representatives leafing through sheaths of printouts and waving pointers at confusing diagrams; sick of inane questions from Japanese journalists who seem to be missing the point, and angry that there is no clear instruction from the government about what action the public should take, other than putting wet towels over their heads and staying inside with the doors and windows shut tight until things blow over: “Enough already!,” writes one viewer, “where are the government press conferences?”
At the same time, when the coverage shifts from press conferences with spokesmen in grey suits to the nuclear and flood disaster site crews or relief efforts, the social stream becomes a chorus of gratitude and inspiration: “Thanks guys, you are risking your lives for us!” Even, “C’mon TEPCO! Don’t give up!”
I wonder if any of the authorities are monitoring this stream. The social backchannel could really help them to communicate better with the public.