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Globalisation and News of Disaster: The Los Angeles Times Reports Earthquakes in Japan, 1923 and 1995


Gastvortrag in englischer Sprache von Dr. Gordon M. Winder (Seminar für Wirtschaftsgeschichte, LMU)

How were terrible earthquakes in Japan reported by the Los Angeles Times? Giant earthquakes like those that devastated Tokyo in 1923 and Kobe in 1995 are related to readers using specific narrative devices, including imaginaries of the world and citizenship in it for the imagined readership. Thus, to answer this paper’s question requires a geography of the news, one that maps news content in terms of ritual forms of communication, mediation, and imaginaries to news networks and readers. This paper maps the news of the disasters in Japan offered to Angelinos and reveals striking similarities in the coverage of these two events. Americans were present in both of these disaster zones, and those in Los Angeles were caught up in the events. In its reporting the Los Angeles Times reflected and reinforced the strong sense of voluntary mission to foreign peoples that had emerged in America by the early twentieth century.  In each case the Los Angeles Times mediated experience of distant disaster using America’s ‘Samaritan Diplomacy’ as a vital script to interpret the actions of American policy makers, brokers, scientifists and engineers, foreign nationals residing in Los Angeles, and American citizens residing abroad. Such media coverage preconditions the ways Southern Californians can imagine disaster: it is America’s moral responsibility to provide aid for the less fortunate. By mediating distant disaster events for Angelinos in this way the Los Angeles Times bolsters American identities and imprints Southern Californians as moral citizens.