Critics Praise, Attack Cable News Coverage of Japan Crisis

By Alex Weprin 

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Television critics are weighing in on the coverage of the crisis in Japan. Not surprisingly, they are not all in agreement about the quality of the coverage.

The Hollywood Reporter‘s Tim Goodman found coverage from the U.S. networks lacking, saying “It’s a shame that going online to watch videos from NHK, BBC and Al-Jazeera English was far and away the best option for Americans.”

He both praised and derided CNN, first for actually having staff in-country when the disaster struck, but also for flying in anchors that didn’t seem to have much to do:

At one point, Cooper and Gupta were standing around with that “what are we supposed to be doing” look. That spared them, however, from Soledad O’Brien’s embarrassing fate. In one taped segment (though apparently not initially intended for air), she gets word that they need to move out of the area she’s in. Then she panics and yells that a wave is coming and she starts running (all of this being filmed). By the time she reaches high ground in a nearby house, the camera looks out to see nothing but dry land as far as you can see.

Salon’s Matt Zoller Seitz found cable’s coverage of the crisis refreshing, at least compared to its “normally smug and complacent” programming.

There’s reporting and commentary happening right onscreen right now, of a type that throws cable news’ business-as-usual triviality and sleaziness into unflattering relief. Random acts of journalism are being committed.

Anderson Cooper’s reports on “Anderson Cooper 360” have been plainspoken and thoughtful, as the anchor’s on-location reporting so often is. (Getting out of the studio and into the field seems to center him.)

Seitz also praises Rachel Maddow and Glenn Beck for their studio coverage of the nuclear situation in Japan.