Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reporting The News or Inducing Mass Hysteria?

On Friday March 11, 2011 an 8.9 earthquake hit the east coast of Honshu, Japan.  The earthquake in turn caused a Tsunami which has caused massive destruction and left hundreds dead.  The effects of the Tsunami could be felt to almost the entire West Coast of the United States. 

This is similar to how responsible news media reported the facts Friday morning.  How did local news media report the facts?  Well that's a different story.  I can only tell you mine....I live in Santa Cruz County.  Things were reported a little differently here which made me wonder....

When are local news media groups reporting the new or inducing mass hysteria?

Friday morning, what could almost be described as mass hysteria broke out in many coastal counties.  People evacuated their homes to flee for higher ground, parents kept their children home from school, beaches were closed and lines to fill up gas were insane.  Why?  Why did we, who live thousands of miles from Japan, become convinced that we were in eminent danger?

It was reported that Tsunami waves were headed our way. 

Tsunami is defined as "A very large ocean wave caused by an underwater earthquake or volcanic eruption." 

That is NOT what happened to any part of the West Coast.  We did, however, have stronger than usual waves that did cause damage and flooding to various coastal towns.  These strong waves and even stronger undertows were a direct result of the Tsunami.  Families in certain neighborhoods were evacuated as precautionary measures. 

Looking back to yesterdays events, was the hysteria caused by reports of Tsunami waves coming to the West Coast necessary?  Schools remained open, business remained open and ALL evacuation sites were in town. 

Does it really make sense for us to have gotten so freaked out by the days events which were over by about 12:00pm Pacific time? 

So again the question I have is.....

When is considered responsible news reporting or inducing mass hysteria?  Was it necessary to use terms like "Tsunami waves" to describe the ocean activity yesterday?  Could the news have been reported in a way to evoke the need for caution without causing the "Chicken Little Syndrome?"

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