For foreign news media, Japan loses its luster
Reviewed By Hitoshi URABE
"For foreign news media, Japan loses its luster"
(by The New York Times) International Herald Tribune
Originally appeared in the New York Times, written by its staff stationed in Japan with intimate knowledge of the land and established reputation, the story was inspired by the writer upon bidding yet another resident foreign correspondent leaving Japan farewell.
The article reports, "In the last few months, newspapers closing their Tokyo bureaus included the Chicago Tribune, The Christian Science Monitor, The Independent of London, Dagens Nyheter of Sweden and Corriere della Sera of Italy." In addition, there have been a number of cut downs at other foreign media offices.
The writer initially suggests the receding trend could be due to the state of Japan's economy, its 12-year long stagnation, that as the economy recedes, so does the occurrences of dramatic events.
It may be true. Interesting events for exciting reading certainly do tend to happen more in growing regions than in relatively mature and stable countries. Generally, it is easier for the reporter to describe flaring phenomena than subtle changes, and people like to cheer the winners rather than see the sorrow of the losers. There is a Japanese saying that goes "It's not news when a dog bites a man, but it is so when a man bites a dog."
Hence, it is quite natural for China to receive more coverage than Japan. Accordingly, more news space is devoted to fires and floods rather than the snail-paced research on global warming, and military confrontations hit the headlines while children's health problem in poor countries is seldom reported. People flocked to the news of Korea's glory at the World Cup when few were talking about the adverse fate of France.
It used to be that correspondents residing in alien land were there just to gather simple facts. However, as a result of the advancement of communication technology, it is often the case today that a colleague back home would be calling you up to inform you what is going on in your own backyard.
Having said that, anyone who has the experience of working and living in a foreign country knows that there are those subtleties which could only be recognized by constantly breathing the air of the land, and that the receptiveness thus acquired could make a significant difference in understanding the events thoroughly and coping with them successfully.
What is expected of the correspondents in today's world, therefore, is not a function to relay simple facts, but to be an analyst who can provide worthwhile insights based on experience and knowledge of the topic's background, which inevitably includes the sensitivity to the locale.
There are indications later in the article, nevertheless, that the writer has done his share of soul-searching on this point. He seems to casually suggest that something needs to be done to care for the decreasing foreign correspondents residing in Japan.
It is very unfortunate for Japan as well as for other countries to see capable reporters leave the land. They could do so much to fill the gaps and lubricate the frictions that could exist between Japan and abroad. After all, Japan is "still" the second largest economy in the world as the article points out, and the benefits of their maintaining healthy ties with the outside world would undoubtedly be productive globally.