Blog by Qingfeng Jiaozhu, Jiangsu (http://blog.sina.com.cn/qfqz), May 13, 2008
On May 12, 2008, at 2:28 PM, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake occurred in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province. People in other provinces and cities also felt the terrible tremors. In Sichuan alone, more than 10,000 people have either died. In fact, this is China's most disastrous earthquake since the 1976 Tangshan earthquake. On that day, thousands of people never even had a chance to view the beautiful starry sky or see the bright sun again. This May 12 quake has caused Chinese people not only to suffer the consequences of catastrophic physical shocks, but also to experience great psychological distress.
Thirty years have passed since the Tangshan earthquake; many changes have taken place since that time. Significantly, the biggest changes are reflected in our society: Chinese public consciousness toward disaster relief has made great strides forward. This is shown by our government's highly efficient emergency planning, the media's promptly reporting on the disaster to calm victims and compassionate messages from observers. Above all, many Internet users acted calmly during the earthquake by not only protecting themselves but also by continuing to transmit reports and videos to record the true situation in disaster areas.
The media play an inestimable role after this disaster. Clearly, people maintain confidence when they have access to pertinent information – as much as they can get – because information creates trust. This is especially the case regarding unexpected events. The right to know the truth is a citizen's basic legal tenet. It's also the most effective way to disperse with rumors. When people begin to panic, frank explanations will calm them down.
At 2:46 PM, immediately after the Wenchuan earthquake took place, Xinhua News Agency announced that a 7.8 magnitude earthquake had hit Wenchuan. A 3.9 magnitude quake was widely felt in Beijing; people outside the epicenter of the earthquake grasped the situation. Soon afterwards CCTV, Sichuan TV, and Phoenix TV began reporting on the earthquake. Journalists from different places tried to gain access into disaster areas in order to report the latest news.
Many websites opened up special webpages to cover the disaster, rolling over the developing news, providing background information for the earthquake, listing proper self-protection methods, and interviewing professionals. All this made the news more powerful and served to give the general public relief from fear and panic. As some people remarked that this coverage was China's quickest and most real-time reporting ever. Chinese media have benefited from scientific and technological progress, and now serve to prove how China has become more democratic and transparent.
(China.org.cn May 15, 2008)