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Japan earthquake anniversary: Digital media lessons we've learned

On the first anniversary of the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan, here are some thoughts on implications for the digital media realm.

I missed a chance to visit Spain last week, but this isn't a lament about that blown opportunity. Instead, it's about what I've learned since the devastating Japan earthquake on March 11, 2012. Let me explain.

I had been asked to make a presentation at Japan: One Year Later, a conference in Barcelona organized by Casa Asia and the Japan Foundation. I couldn't attend in person, so the organizer, Marta Ballada (@mballada) asked if I would consider participating in some digital fashion. Skype was the obvious answer, but the time difference would have meant my speaking in the middle of the night from my Manhattan apartment. Instead, she had the brilliant idea of my creating a YouTube video they could play for the audience. I had never done this before, but gave it a try, shooting an 11-minute video on my iPhone 4S.

The resulting video, "Media Lessons from Japan's Earthquake and Its Aftermath," is embedded above and also available at http://bit.ly/conjapon (#conjapon was the hashtag for the conference, Spanish for "with Japan").

Covering Japan from afar: After I woke up on that Friday last March to the awful news, I spent the following 36 hours thinking about, talking about and tweeting/Facebooking about little else. Beyond the routine interest I would have had in any major tragedy far away from U.S. shores, I was captivated because of my own Japan connection. You see, I was born in Tokyo (my dad had no trouble picking me out in the hospital window; "the brown one is mine," he said).

A few days after the quake, I wrote a column for DNAinfo (a Manhattan news site I helped launch three years ago) entitled, "5 Things I'm Learning From #JapanQuake, #PrayJapan, etc". That article resulted in a TEDxColumbiaEngineering talk, "What I'm Learning from #Egypt, #Libya, #Japan, etc", and an invitation to contribute to Politica Exterior, a major media studies journal in Spain. My friend and social media consultant Eliza Cooper (@ElizaIn140) collaborated in English on an essay that became "De #Egipto a #Fukushima: revolucion en los medios" (you can get a gist via the Google Translate English translation here).

A note on a Facebook Page plays a role: All that, however, pales in comparison to something else that happened as a result of my trying to share information about the quake. I had created what Facebook calls a note on my SreeTips FB Page. "#JAPANQUAKE: Collecting links, notes, read" was launched around 7:30 am EST on March 11 and became a place for journalists and others around the world to connect and share what we knew. It was a tiny way for us to participate from afar in a major news story. But what happened after that was what really surprised me. Yo Makino (@YoMakino), a journalist in California, wrote an article for a Japanese business magazine about our efforts, praising us for showing how Facebook can be used in new and important ways. It was truly humbling to think we could be of any help via social media. And then, last week, a copy of Makino's new book, "Government-Media Complex" arrived in the mail (see below) and he told me that chapter 12 talks again about the role that the little Facebook note played in all this.

Other anniversary notes: Here are some of the article about the anniversary that I've read today:

READERS: What did I miss? Post your thoughts in the comments below, please, or via @Sree or via #sreetips on Twitter or via sreetips at sree.net on email.

A Japanese book, "Government-Media Complex" by Yo Makino, compares Japanese and U.S. journalism and includes a look at the role the SreeTips Facebook Page played in getting useful information out to journalists around the world in the days after the Japan earthquake. (Credit: Photo by Sree Sreenivasan/CNET)