Hi Blog. The Japan Times newspaper raised their cover price on October 1st to 180 yen. That to me is a signal (among other things, such as the slimming classified ads) that the paper may be in financial trouble. Notwithstanding the fact that print journalism everywhere is hurting due to the spread of the Internet and news online, I would not like to see The Japan Times go under.
This blog is an independent public appeal to Debito.org readers to consider suggestions to help the Japan Times stay afloat.
DISCLAIMER: I speak completely as an individual and not as a representative of the Japan Times or any of its affiliates. Nobody from the Japan Times has contacted me to speak on their behalf. I am not a salaried staff member of the Japan Times, nor have I ever been, and the fact that I have written 40 columns for them as a freelancer since 2002 has no bearing on my decision to do what I can to help them. My motivation is that I believe the Japan Times is a good institution in a very deadbeat employment field: Many of the most famous media outlets worldwide are notorious for not paying or offering to pay their foreign correpondents or contributors. The Japan Times, in contrast, always been good to me–always paying me in full and on time (unlike Crisscross, publishers of the recently-sold Metropolis/Japan Today, for whom I wrote eighteen columns between 2000 and 2002, and who still owes me money despite my requesting them for years to pay), and it would be a shame (and a renewed incentive to the backstabbing media outlets) to see a rare honest media organ go under.
That said, why you should support the Japan Times:
1) The Japan Times is the only independent newspaper in Japan–meaning it is not a vanity project of any Japanese newspaper, unlike the Daily Yomiuri, the Asahi Evening News, or the Mainichi Daily News, and does not reflect their clear slants (or their labor practices towards NJ employees). All are decent enough newspapers, of course, but the Japan Times is the only one which for well over a century now has not had any major media backers to absorb loss-making operations. They stand alone, and that affects their output more in our favor. Thus:
2) The Japan Times more open to issues that affect NJ in Japan. The Daily Yomiuri basically translates the Yomiuri’s tendentious (and quite bland and biased) articles from Japanese, then imports overseas articles to make slim but cheap product. The Asahi is essentially a few pages (many just translated articles from the Asahi) tacked onto the International Herald Tribune, and focuses far more on overseas news than original domestic English-language Asahi articles (they also have a history of union-busting activity and a complete lack of editorial independence from the parent paper; an extreme example: just try to phone their English-language editors–you can’t even get through; I have on two occasions been refused connection at the Asahi switchboard). The Mainichi has long ceased to a newsstand issue, and has online the same translations of Mainichi articles plus the wonderful and unique Waiwai yellow-journalism Weeklies roundups (which are interesting but not exactly “news”). Only the Japan Times really has the independent-thinking J and NJ reporters seeking out the information the English-reading NJ communities in Japan need, freer of “Japanese-sensitivity sanitization”. The weekly revelations in the Tuesday/Wednesday Community Page Zeit Gist Column (which I write for) alone are, may I immodestly say, worth the entire cover price for the day.
3) The Japan Times has the best website archives in Japan–and for free. In this era when all other English-language J newspaper media have crappy search engines, and articles which selfishly and unhelpfully wink out of existence after only a few days (Kyodo News is the worst–you can’t find stuff even hours old), only the Japan Times has kept their body of work searchable and accessible since 2000. If anything, the Japan Times does more for the foreign correspondents in Japan (who often parachute into Japan and have to scramble to find any historical arcs in the media), not to mention us independent researchers (without expense accounts to pay for online memberships at every newspaper), than any other media outlet. And whenever you need something to prove a point (without having to resort to some questionably-reputable online source like blogs and wikis), who you going to point to without incredulity? The Japan Times Online, of course.
4) The Japan Times has become more open of late, and willing to give even quite outspoken critics (such as yours truly) space to set out their views. They are doing more to earn your readership (as opposed to the Yomiuri and the Asahi, which I don’t believe are all that interested in independent reportage outside of their editorial bent), and that should be encouraged.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO SUPPORT THE JAPAN TIMES:
a) Take out a subscription. It’s now just under 4500 yen a month. But if that’s too rich for your blood:
b) Encourage your employer to take out a subscription.
Or if you work at an educational institution:
c) Encourage your library to take out a subscription.
d) Encourage your local International Communication Center or other government/public institution concerned with internationalization and communication with the NJ community to take out a subscription.
They all know who the Japan Times is. It’s been around since 1897. Should not be too hard a sell. And it won’t cost you a thing.
WHAT THE JAPAN TIMES CAN DO TO BETTER SUPPORT ITSELF:
(I do not speak as in insider with access to their books; only from personal experience.)
1) Avoid its own vanity projects, such as its vanity press. The Japan Times as a publisher of books charges incredible rates for people who wish to publish books with them. (I tried to publish a book with them several years ago, only to be told that I could only self-publish it, paying them four times the rate quoted elsewhere just for printing costs, not to mention pay an enormous premium over the standard cost for just an ISBN registration and bar code. And even then this would not include what it would cost to put “Japan Times Inc., Publisher” on the cover, advertise the book in their newspaper, or put the book on bookshelves nationwide.) You want to be a publisher as well as a newspaper? Offer competitive (realistic, even) rates and non-self-publishing options and you’ll get more business.
2) Save money on print and paper by getting rid of your stock market price pages. Does anyone actually look at those useless pages anymore? They’re available online to anyone who cares (and trades) nowadays anyway.
3) Get more reporters on the beat, listening to the pulse and the stories from the NJ communities. Japan Times reporters are notoriously overworked, and can be very slow to answer even simple enquiries or follow up on stories. You might also consider creating some stories on ethnic issues in Japan, since the non-English-speaking communities are growing much faster than the English-speaking communities. We have lots of stories out here just waiting to be lent the credibility that print journalism provides. Listen to us. We’ll help make your paper more interesting and saleable.
That should do it for now. Thanks for reading and considering my suggestions, readers. And Japan Times, if you’re reading this, we need you to survive as a media outlet. Get back on your feet. But do it reasonably and ethically, please. Thanks.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo