Japan's recovery has been all over international news since the chain of tragedies began on March 11, and people around the world have donated over $1 billion to the Japanese Red Cross relief fund. Japan has seen devastation from the direct effects of the earthquake and tsunami, as well as from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant that has sent radioactive levels in Japan skyrocketing.
For many, the only way they can help is by donating money. However, the LA Times reported the none of the $1 billion raised has reached victims, which has prompted Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano to "urge Sunday that the process be accelerated."
This headline and lede must have raised a few eyebrows, though many who took the time to read the article were most likely peeved that the information in the lede was not mentioned again until the end of the story.
Meanwhile, the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant reported no significant progress in stopping the leak of radioactive water into the sea.
This poses a couple questions. 1. Why hasn't the Red Cross given any of the money to the people needing it? I want to know now, not later. 2. If there is not any significant progress, and this has been reported on consistently over the past weeks, why did this information need to be placed so high in the story?
The story has great, important information, but it was structured very poorly--especially since another article was published a couple hours later with thoroughly updated information about the power plant problems. Yes, a headline like "Red Cross aid hasn't reached Japan quake victims" is going to get people to read. No, it is not a surprise reading the comments on the story by people who are outraged at the Red Cross (probably because they did not take time to read the entire story to see the reasoning).
As it turns out, the Red Cross is attempting to make the distribution as equal as possible.
Tomohide Atsumi, president of the Nippon Volunteer Network Active in Disaster, said the Red Cross has "a policy of equity and places a high value on equality, and it takes time to assess damages."
In a land of freedom and equality rules the judgement of many, I'm sure the reaction of many would have been different if that quote had been placed higher in the story. Ethically, is it right to make an organization look bad by leaving out pertinent information until the end? I would say no.
As journalists, we are supposed to be watchdogs. It is very easy to simply look for problems and report on them. Why not? We know it will get people to read. However, that is not the way to achieve neutral reporting. In order to be truly neutral, one must goes as far as to look for stories in a neutral state of mind. What is more important--more hits online or an ethically-strong story? The LA Times deserves some credit because the information was there, but the structure was very poor.