The Impact of Computing on the Changing Landscape of News
24 March 2011
JMSC ABC News on Campus Stories On Air
28 March 2011

JMSC Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Coverage

JMSC alumni and students are among those who have been reporting the recent tragedy in Japan caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

Diego Laje (MJ 2009) lives in Hong Kong and freelances for CNN Spanish and He flew to Japan the day after the tsunami to cover the story for CNN Spanish. Along with the CNN Hong Kong team, he went to Sendai. They based themselves in Minamisanriku.

Minamisanriku web clips from Diego Laje on Vimeo.

“I was probably the first among the Spanish speaking world to get there on the ground and among the first in the English speaking world,” said Laje.

“Japan was whatever other similar stories are not,” he continued. “There was a level of organisation I have never seen before, especially among the normal people. On a personal level, it was a terrible tragedy to witness. It was very painful and the level of destruction was beyond anything I could imagine.”

Laje took footage on a hand-held camera that he put up on his blog. This footage has been widely distributed among Spanish speakers.

Kirti Nandwani (BJ 2011) reports for Hong Kong’s TVB Pearl.

Nandwani did a package on the long-term effects of radiation, which looked at the fact Hong Kong was safe from radiation hitting its shores through either rain water or the sea. She also did a package about how Hong Kongers were fundraising to help the victims of Japan’s devastating earthquake.

Zela Chin (MJ 2010) is also a reporter/producer for TVB Pearl. She is responsible for Money Magazine, a weekly business programme. Chin reported on both the overall impact of the quake and the economic impact of the quake.

Alex Hofford (MJ 2011) is a photojournalist for many clients including the wire agency European Pressphoto Agency (EPA). Hofford went to the hard hit Sendai region of Japan for a week to cover the disaster.

“The thing that humbled me most was to witness the full power of nature’s wrath,” he said. “The tsunami of 11 March wreaked absolute total destruction on an incomprehensible scale. Hundreds of kilometres of coastline have been utterly razed. This made many of my images reminiscent of scenes from World War Two, which is why I spent a while on my return creating a black and white slideshow.”

You can see Hofford’s website complete with more of his photos at

“A few buildings had been left badly damaged but are still standing,” Hofford continued. “I went inside one destroyed kindergarten in Natori, near Sendai, one of the worst affected areas, where the all the windows facing the sea were just blocked up with debris that was thrown at it by the tsunami: wooden beams; branches; plastic items; clothes; motorbikes; all kinds of stuff. Nature at its most violent. I really hope they got the kids out on time.”

Hofford told of the difficulties of taking photos after such a large-scale disaster: “Overall, this three-pronged disaster, earthquake, tsunami and nuclear, was a really tough story to cover – full of logistical hurdles to overcome. Severe fuel rationing for the hire car, the cold weather, a lack of food, water and power, these all made for very difficult working conditions.”

Christopher DeWolf (MJ 2009) spent four days in Tokyo following the quake, writing an article for the Canadian edition of the Reader’s Digest.

“It’s a longish first-person account of how people in Tokyo are coping with the aftermath of the earthquake and the resulting nuclear threat,” said DeWolf. “I’m covering a number of different issues in the piece: the controversial media treatment of the disaster; the impact of the disaster on daily life in Tokyo; the emotional toll of the earthquake, blackouts, radiation scare; and the potential impact on Tokyo’s environment and economy.”

“It’s one thing to hear what is happening in Japan from the media and quite another to see it for yourself on the ground,” he continued. “My focus was not on the disaster itself but its impact on Tokyo, a subject that has been covered very sensationally by many foreign media outlets. Many of the people I spoke to in Tokyo felt that the foreign media have distorted the picture of what is actually happening in the city. I’ve always believed that it is important to take a critical view of how major events are framed and packaged by reporters and their editors; walking the streets of Tokyo, talking to its people and seeing what was happening with my own eyes confirmed that belief.”

Tesa Arcilla (MJ 2008) works for the 24 hour English language news channel, Russia Today in Moscow as a news anchor.

“I was on the anchor desk when news of the earthquake and ensuing tsunami happened,” said Arcilla. “I was also on the desk when the first explosion at the Fukushima Daichi Plant Unit 1 happened. We were looking at live pictures and we instantly switched to breaking news format. I had to adlib as details trickled in. We had correspondents in various locations and live guests to talk about the events as they unfolded.”

Saul Sugarman (MJ 2009) writes for the San Francisco newswire, Bay City News in America.

“I’ve covered a few Japan stories since the earthquake / tsunami,” said Sugarman. “My editor had me go to Ocean Beach in San Francisco to see if waves swelled up and threatened our city (they didn’t). And I spoke briefly to a few people at the Japanese Consulate. I also wrote a piece about Japanese firefighters who were unable to return home after training in California for two weeks. Finally, I’ve been following donation efforts in the Bay Area.

Mabel Sieh (Post-graduate Diploma in Journalism 2004) is a reporter for the Young Post section of the South China Morning Post.

Sieh wrote a story called ‘Why it won’t happen in HK: Interview with university experts‘.

She’s been involved with the Young Post’s From HK to Japan with Love Campaign.

Monami Mui (MJ 2010) and Stuart Biggs (MJ 2004) both work for Bloomberg in Tokyo. You can watch one of Biggs’ reports about the stricken Fukushima reactor here.