How New York and London News Media Reacted to the Pearl Harbor attack in 1941

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How Newspapers from New York and London reacted to the Pearl Harbor attack on 7th December 1941


When articles related to the Second World War and Pacific Theater in particular were published, there were no technologies to analyse the content in a fast and quantitatively manner. Now, we can process the content of thousands of articles within seconds. This allows us to investigate how different major cities, countries and media news treated events of the early World War II. This analysis can also unveil different results when focusing on countries and media that took part in different sides, namely, Axis and Allies.

How London and New York media reacted to the Pearl Harbor attack?


The New York Times launched an issue with a cover entitled: Japan Wars on U.S. and Britain; Japan Makes Sudden Attack On Hawaii.  A word-by-word analysis of the article content  in terms of tag cloud was performed.  We did the same with the news reported in London. The BBC launched a news report entitled “Japanese planes bomb Pearl Harbor”, and the content of the text was also represented as a tag cloud of keywords.

pearl harbor attack tagcloud newspaper analysis

Tag cloud of Pearl Harbor attack from New York Times and BBC news Media.


The Tag cloud represents the New York Times (Left)  and BBC news (right)  keyword occurrences when reporting on the Pearl Harbor attack. The size of the words is proportional to the number of occurrences. See below for the top 10 keywords with highest absolute number of occurrences.



We could extract numerically the top 10 keywords with more repetitions and compare both articles. In the case of the NYT, the result is:

34 Japanese
25 United
22 States
20 Japan
16 President
15 attack
14 war
14 said
14 House
12 White

We did the same for the BBC news and the result is:

10 Japanese
10 Japan
9 war
8 Harbor
8 Pearl
6 China
6 planes
6 attack
5 sunk
5 aircraft
4 December
4 Roosevelt

The statistical comparison shows that Japanese and Japan are main keywords of both articles as expected, since they attacked the US. However, in the case of the NYT, they stressed much more the United States country name. In general, it seems that the NYT article focused on the institutional response, such as President of the US and White House decisions and words (said). In contrast, the UK news are emphasizing more the type of attack and targets (Pearl Harbor, Planes, sunk, aircrafts) as well as latent Asia related conflicts such as China War with Japan. A more detailed and rigorous analysis should be performed using frequency of works rather than words counts though. However, this simple analysis gives an overview of the content of the article. In particular, by looking at the picture of the tag cloud, these subtle differences can emerge too.

It would also be very interesting to see how newspapers from Germany, Italy and Japan (Axis side) reported on the attack, and which words and semantics were used to describe the aggression. This will be the next part of the study.






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