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Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Nuclear Emergencies: Kudos, Reporters

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Samantha Lee
Samantha Lee

Friday night was just like any other; the pub, a little Glee, the imminent decision to get off the couch to go to town or stay in and get DVDs.

My flatmate and I were watching Glee when the first apocalyptic images came in from Japan- people panicking, scenes from the shaking office of a television studio, a huge wall of water and debris moving inexorably over the land. This was definitely not your average news day- and amidst the shock and horror felt for the people of Japan was another question- what does this mean for us?

Reporters from around the globe were quick to provide updates as it happened- no slick slideshows, no polished editing- just raw, terrifying footage and on-the-spot commentary as fall out from the fifth biggest earthquake since 1906 unfolded.

Bad news; as they say, is better than no news- and I’d like to take a moment to say thanks to those who put themselves at risk on the front lines and who were on to it enough at home in New Zealand and around the world to provide information quickly- and more importantly- keep updating.

We were watching Glee when the breaking news came in that Japan had suffered an 8.9 earthquake (now upgraded to 9.0 by the Japan Meteorological Agency) and subsequent tsunami. Sacha McNeil from TV3, (who, poor bugger, wasn’t scheduled to do anything until Nightline started and kept up a continual dialogue for over three hours) did an admirable job of presenting the quake news straight off the bat as it came in.

Being the social media freaks we are- we logged on to Twitter, through which updates came in minute by minute from such users as @BreakingNews and @NZcivildefence  and @WeatherWatchNZ; this meant that we got the news of there being a potential nuclear meltdown before the networks and had time to Google what exactly this entails before any true panic set in.

When the news came in the US based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center had included New Zealand in a warning, and when it emerged that actually, Civil Defence are our authority for these things and not to pay attention to those guys, Weather Watch were there to keep us on the straight and narrow.

Weather Watch, it has to be said, rule. They provided, (and continue to provide) frequent updates on the earthquake, the tsunami, and the nuclear issues in Japan, as well as updates from Civil Defence, when (with impeccable timing) the Civil Defence website crashed for a good couple of hours. They were updating with tsunami path animations and live TV streams; they were answering questions via Facebook and sharing all breaking news including the fact that nuclear reactors couldn’t be cooled in the early hours of Saturday morning. They were the go to gurus for information and they totally delivered- great job, guys.

Civil Defence - who aren’t reporters but do assess reports- deserve a mention for despite the hugely bad timing of having their site crash for the first few hours after the Japan earthquake news broke, turned to Weather Watch, liaising with them to provide information, as well as the television networks here and even posting their updates via Google docs- they had a back up plan in place and gave comprehensive but not sensationalised information. 

The fact that Civil Defence also used social media such as Twitter was particularly helpful as the tsunami warning was upgraded from a marine warning only to a marine and minor land threat warning at 2 a.m. and retweeted at 4 a.m. Saturday morning, which meant I could contact a friend in Northland to let her know- and she and her friends could get anyone off the beach in her area. 

Radio New Zealand also updated constantly and gave comprehensive information about the earthquake, the tsunami and now the threat of nuclear meltdowns at three reactors at least in Japan.

Kyodo News in Japan has been providing consistent breaking news and updates- many American news sites are getting their information from this site. 

Reuters has also been a good source of constant news- consequently shared by networks around the world.

The NZ Herald should also be applauded for somehow managing to pull a rabbit out of a hat at 7.30pm on a Friday and turn out both a front section and world section on the quake and tsunami for a Saturday delivery.

The television networks, particularly TV3, have been on to it- Alistair Wilkinson, whom I don’t think contractually gets a day off anymore, has been reporting over the weekend- most noticeably at 12pm today, while TV One had reindeer on. Mike McRoberts is in Japan reporting now, looking like he’s had maybe 45 minutes sleep.

In regards to the February 22nd Christchurch Earthquake- all networks have also done a fantastic job reporting what people need in Christchurch; directing us to the Red Cross site, to a quake appeal list and Room 4 Rent. They are reporting what people are doing on an hourly and daily basis- they, like all the people in Christchurch, are working through aftershocks, fear, stress, exhaustion and with limited power, water and accommodation to report information.

It’s a hard job: to hit the frontlines amidst such devastation, to assess the situation calmly and to stay objective while people all around are suffering; voluntarily putting yourself in danger to broadcast information to the rest of the world- with loved ones worrying about you.

So, not so much of a blog per say this week, and I know the organizations mentioned above are just a small contingent of of very large effort. This is just a note to say keep up the excellent job, reporters of New Zealand and around the world- you rock.

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