FCCJ No.1 Shimbun interviews Prez Ogasawara of Japan Times.


Hi Blog. Working on my next Japan Times column, due tomorrow (and this one is pretty tough going–I’ve got too much to say).

But here’s something you might find interesting. Interview with Yukiko Ogasawara, President of the Japan Times, in the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan’s “No.1 Shimbun”. Even a citation from Debito.org, thanks!  Debito in Sapporo
The future of print: “The newspaper business still has a few years left here”
by Tony McNicol. Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan No.1 Shimbun December 3, 2007

Courtesy of the author.

Things could hardly have been worse when Yukiko Ogasawara became president of the Japan Times last March. She faced the aftermath of wide-ranging job cuts, a precipitous drop in the newspaper’s circulation, and fierce, growing competition from Internet news sites, expat bloggers and the rest of the so-called new media.

Her father, Toshiaki Ogasawara, the chairman of plastic parts and components manufacturer Nifco Inc., bought the Japan Times in 1983. This year The Japan Times celebrated its 110th anniversary. Daughter Ogasawara says she is determined to increase circulation and put the paper back on a firm financial footing. But with the Japan Times losing money, and far more commercially successful print media also feeling the pinch, is it even worth trying?

Blogger Debito Arudou recently triggered a lively debate with an impassioned plea for the Japan Times’ survival. He argued that the broadsheet had a special role to play as the “only independent newspaper in Japan.” Putting the opposite case, Mark Devlin, publisher of the Japan Today news website recommend people “just let the damn thing die … there is a slim possibility that some new blood would come along and resuscitate it.”

So which is it? Is the Japan Times a dinosaur doomed to extinction or a phoenix about to rise from the ashes of the print media? The No. 1 Shimbun recently spoke to Yukiko Ogasawara in her office.


Rest at http://www.fccj.or.jp/node/2993

8 comments on “FCCJ No.1 Shimbun interviews Prez Ogasawara of Japan Times.

  • I stopped reading the Japan Times in 2000.
    The reason being editorial style. In particular, they regularly strip diacritics from long vowels, which is simply unacceptable.
    Every few years a take a quick look to see if it has improved, but it does not seem to have. If they ever fix that, I may read it once again. Until then, Japanese (language) newspapers are fine.

  • So, let’s have a look at what Ogasawara is telling us: at least 50% of the Japan Times readers are non-Japanese (this figure is based on subscriptions, not newsstand sales, where one would guess the NJ ratio might be higher).

    Yet, the Japan Times has 16 reporters, and 15 are Japanese and just one is non-Japanese.

    Also, listed on the Japan Times editorial page are the paper’s chairman and publisher, president, executive vice president, general director, managing editor, administrative manager and general manager. Not a single one of those six names is non-Japanese.

    Can we imagine a London or New York paper for the Japanese community with almost no Japanese reporters, and a masthead composed exclusively of names like Jones, Smith and Green? Ridiculous.

    Yet now Ogasawara says she is reaching out to the foreign community . . .

    Sorry, as much as I hate to see a paper fail, the non-Japanese community deserves media produced by and for us, not without and against us.

  • I’m with DM on this one. Quite frankly, I don’t read any English-language media in Japan, because I find it insipid. I have an editorial policy for them: Take up the cause of NJ, such as an end of resident fingerprinting, demanding anti-racism laws be passed, etc. Give the paper not just direction, but teeth. Oh, and if the JT can’t find NJ with excellent Japanese and top CVs, they aren’t looking hard enough. There’s Debito himself, me, and Patrick Harlan (Pak-kun), to name just three. It sounds to me more like fear of offending the Japanese community. Time to go out and actively seek out fresh blood. Or are they just not interested?

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    I agree with DM and Kinpatsu that the foreign-language papers really need to do more to genuinely serve the foreign community rather than simply be English-translated mouthpieces for established Japanese news outlets. The Japan Times, while independent and not tied to the Yomiuri or Mainichi like two other English-language papers, still feels “Japanese”, and I’m not surprised to hear how few foreign reporters work with them. Contrast this with, say, the Spanish papers in a major US city. Those papers are by and for the Spanish-language community, and routinely print pro-immigration editorials and other opinions that conflict with the established views.

    Also, Peter, I agree with you about editorial style. Things that you’d think would be easily looked past can be surprisingly important. Indicating long vowels is a good example — while typing them was difficult on a computer until recently, now we have Unicode, and the Macintosh even offers a simple keystroke. (Option-A plus the letter, using the US Extended keyboard layout.)

    This style quibbling isn’t limited to the Japan Times — in the past few years, a couple of the Japanese papers decided to use European numerals instead of Japanese, even when writing vertically, to save space. (You can cram two or three of them into one square, unlike kanji numerals which take up a whole space.) You’d be surprised how distracting and clunky this can look. Many Roman-alphabet publications are undergoing a typographical and aesthetic renaissance with the new computing technology, and the Japanese papers are going the other way.

    That aside, I hope that the Japan Times will, under its new management, indeed “do things that the Japanese media are afraid to do”. What do they have planned? Give me an incentive to start picking up your paper every day instead of relying on free internet sources.

  • Craig Bishop says:

    I enjoyed reading these confrontational comments from Kimpatsu. It certainly got me interested in wanting to read all of these “top CVs” now. They must be unbelievably impressive if it means publicly challenging Ogasawara-san to hire them as experienced journalists. Can you post yours here, Kimpatsu?


  • Reading all of this may very well motivate me to finally subscribe to the Japan Times, after years of buying it intermittently on newsstands. I was not aware of the skewed nationality distribution among staff. While I agree it would be good to see more balance in this regard, however, I judge mainly by the results which strike me as quite balanced. This is perhaps reflected in the readership. To me, a balance between NJ and internationally minded Japanese readers seems like a good thing. A daily information source which is also a kind of bridge between NJ and the country in which they live and which (one hopes) they appreciate is what I want. For more activist concerns there are other outlets, such as this site. A paper produced “by and for us” is not what I am looking for, nor do I think polarizing the media into J and NJ is healthy. I am uncomfortable with this kind of “us” and “them” outlook.

    Surely the JT is not perfect, but would we really better off to let it die? We would only be left with worse alternatives in the print media. Count me as one who would feel a great loss if a paper that regularly publishes the venerable Donald Richie and the alternative views of Arudou Debito disappeared. I am more than willing to put up with the crime of dropping diacritics (anyone care to guess how many newspaper readers care about this?).


  • Thanks for your comments. Worth noting that all of JT’s editors, and most of their columnists (who probably outnumber their reporters) are non-Japanese. I don’t think there is a shortage of NJ-input into the paper.

    As for the lack of NJ reporters, I suspect that it is difficult for the JT to afford as well as find NJ with the requisite skills.

  • All of this talk about The Japan Times being an independent, unique voice and representing foreigners is baloney.

    Go to their Web site and search “bridge collapse.” You will find a few stories about an American bridge collapsing in Minneapolis, but you will not find a single story about 57 Vietnamese people dying in September when a bridge under construction by three of the largest companies in Japan collapsed.

    Like so many other stories that embarrass Japan, the government put a muzzle on this story and the Vietnamese government is muzzling it too as they don’t want their Japanese loans to stop coming in. Every news organization in the world is carrying it, but there is hardly any newspaper coverage in Japan and “nothing from the Japan Times.” Did their group of first-rate journalists from those prestigious schools just “miss it”? Or does the Japan Times follow government press club gag orders? Or are the lives of 57 foreigners not equal in importance to say the lives of four fishery boat students in Hawaii? Why the unbalanced coverage?

    When a Japanese mother in Canada abandons her two toddlers home alone to run off to another town to party for a week and comes back to dispose of the decaying corpses in a nearby river, what do we hear from the Japan Times? (Or any Japanese newspaper?) Nothing! Why? When a foreign mother kills a neighbor kid in Japan, it’s all over every newspaper in Japan. Search Rie Fujii at the Japan Times. Any gruesome tales of toddler’s starving to death come up?

    Nifco bought into the Japan Times in the 1970s just as the auto industry was expanding abroad and just as Japan bashing was becoming popular. There was a clear purpose to present economic editorial that was favorable to free trade and the expansion of the Japanese auto industry. With such large sponsors the paper did fine. But by the end of the 80s more Japanese cars were being made in America than in Japan and The Japan Times’ raison d’etre was gone. Now it has to make it on it’s own.

    When this so-called foreigner friendly paper begins to put as much importance–vis-à-vis it’s coverage–on 57 Vietnamese lives as it did on the lives of four Japanese students from Ehime, I’ll start to believe some of this stuff. But until then I tend agree with the previous statement on “just let the damn thing die.” I don’t need to read nor support a newspaper that follows Japanese government gag orders and misses important stories that aren’t favorable to Japanese industry or society.


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