Sunday, May 23, 2004

"A Press Club Culture That Stifles Independent Reporting". Is It France? Europe?…

Is that the French media that Norimitsu Onishi describes in his Thursday column in the International Herald Tribune? Or that of some other European country? Obviously not, when you realize his name is Japanese and that his column falls under the category called Asian Letter

No, we're talking Japan here, and there may be (and are) differences in la forme, but see if you can't find any similarities between the land of the rising sun and the land of Pascal in le contenu, as Onishi discusses "a press club culture that stifles independent reporting".
In Japan, the government and big news outlets have always been close, a coziness institutionalized by the press club system in which members exclude other journalists and, in return for exclusive information from government agencies, tend to stick to the government line. It is an entrenched cartel, barely challenged here, even as South Korea, which inherited the press club as a Japanese colonial legacy, began dismantling it last year. The system did not befit a democracy, the South Koreans said.

…According to critics, the system makes its members act as a herd, producing bland reports that rarely include outside viewpoints.

"Press club members loyally write articles within the framework" set by government, said Tatsuya Iwase, author of "The Reason Newspapers Are Not Interesting," a 1999 book. "There is no more convenient a system for bureaucrats and government than the press club."…

The press clubs' defenders say any failings are with the people, not the system. Hiroshi Wada, an official at the Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association, said: "Getting the news by becoming close to a person is a starting point for a journalist. Closeness is O.K., but a collusive relationship is bad. It is not something related to the press club's existence."

But critics say the system is inherently corrupt and should be abolished. "Farmed sweetfish forget how to find food on their own," said Takeuchi, the former journalist. "They just keep on eating the feed that they're given."
(I'll stop here, but read the original article if you would like to see how "the presence of Japanese troops in an increasingly violent Iraq" plays out in this perspective.)

Read about a specific example of malfunctioning in
the collusion between Japan's authorities and its media