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Disasters in the media: a content analysis of the March 2011 Japan earthquake/tsunami and nuclear disasters




Stomberg, Danielle R., author
Long, Marilee, advisor
Christen, Cindy, committee member
Kwiatkowski, Lynn, committee member

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This cross-cultural study analyzed online newspaper stories about the March 2011 Japan earthquake/tsunami and nuclear disasters from two nationally representative newspapers: the in the United States and the Yomiuri Shimbun in Japan. This study investigated stories published between March 11, 2011, and April 15, 2011. These online news stories were examined to determine their use of disaster myths, past disasters, media hype, and directly quoted sources. Results show that few disaster myths were used overall; however, there was a difference in the number of panic flight myths used in the newspapers studied. References to past disasters were also measured on whether or not they were in the story. It was more common that stories did not mention a past disaster when reporting about the March 2011 Japan earthquake/tsunami and nuclear disasters. The used more past disasters in its stories than did the Yomiuri Shimbun; Chernobyl was the most frequently mentioned past disaster. Results also show that there was no evidence of a nuclear crisis media hype in the newspapers during the time period analyzed. The study also investigated differences in the use of sources by the two newspapers. Counter to predictions, the Yomiuri Shimbun did not use more official sources than the The results suggest that culture played a role in the two newspapers covered the disaster. A closer investigation into each of the variables investigated in this study and the role of culture in reporting about disasters may be warranted in future research.


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media hype
Japan earthquake
disaster myths


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