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Newspaper wars inviting permanent reader alienation

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The Asahi Shimbun has been the target of unprecedented attacks in the Japanese media. The liberal daily, with a claimed circulation of around 8 million, found itself in hot water over revelations that a series of articles by the late Seiji Yoshida, a former soldier in the Imperial Japanese Army contained fabrications. The articles, which appeared in Asahi in the early 1990s, concerned alleged coercive recruitment on Korea's Cheju Island of so-called "comfort women" (a euphemism for women of various nationalities who serviced soldiers in special brothels).

Now infuriated Japanese are alleging that then-chief cabinet secretary Yohei Kohno's 1993 "Statement," an acknowledgement and apology to Korea, was mostly enabled by Yoshida's faux coverage in the Asahi. Their counterarguments claim that recruitment of the women was not coercive, that they knew in advance what the work entailed, and that they were well compensated for their labors.

In a Sept 21 news conference, Asahi president Tadakazu Kimura admitted the wrongdoing and announced that executive editor Nobuyuki Sugiura would be resigning to take responsibility.

Asahi's apology appears only to have added fuel to the fire of the ongoing campaign, spearheaded by the Sankei and Yomiuri newspapers and the weekly magazines Shukan Bunshun and Shukan Shincho, to harangue Asahi by, among other things, urging its advertisers to drop their ads and readers to cancel subscriptions.

And indications are that the campaign may be having some impact on the Asahi's bottom line.

But this approach, warns Nikkan Gendai (Sept 23), represents an "enormous miscalculation" on the part of Asahi's rivals, and explains the reason why.

"The Yomiuri has launched a one-week trial campaign aimed at exploiting the Asahi's current woes to its advantage, by use of a four-page leaflet titled 'How did the Yomiuri Shimbun verify reportage of the comfort women?' a source at the Yomiuri told Nikkan Gendai. "It also produced a 20-page booklet for distribution in the 23 Wards of Tokyo, where there are many Asahi subscribers."

"After the flyers and booklets, the third 'bomb' will be a campaign targeting the Asahi," he continues. "They will be distributing flyers in synch with the days that new (anti-Asahi) books go on sale in bookstores."

Images of the flyers have slipped out and been posted on the internet in advance of their distribution, but these have also attracted negative remarks, such as "This is just nasty and vicious" or "The deluge of all these new books is really overdoing things."

Up to now, moreover, there's scant evidence that these campaigns have had much of an impact. "Since the start of the campaign, the number of Asahi subscribers who have cancelled and switched to Yomiuri comes to less than 10%," a newspaper sales agent in Tokyo tells Nikkan Gendai. "More worrisome is that more people are taking the opportunity to quit reading newspapers altogether.

"Tokyo's 23 wards are segmented into eight sales areas. Managers from each attend two sales meetings a month at the newspaper's headquarters," he continues. "We're hearing reports like 'The more negative campaigns are held over the false reporting, more than the Asahi, the entire newspaper industry loses readers' trust' and 'This is dragging down the image of the entire newspaper industry.'"

In other words, the bashing of the Asahi is having the opposite effect of what its media adversaries have intended.

"Some people may retort, 'So does that mean the Yomiuri never makes mistakes?' the agent remarks. "And billing the agents for part of the costs of the anti-Asahi books that are being offered as incentives is unpopular. Once the current campaign is finished, I think that will probably be the end of it."

When Nikkan Gendai queried the Yomiuri on its justification for the campaign, it was informed somewhat sanctimoniously, "This newspaper is duty-bound to provide correct information, in an easy to comprehend manner, to those other than its own subscribers. In this context we believe our mission is to put newspaper journalism on the road to recovery so as to regain (readers') trust from the damage caused by Asahi's reporting on the comfort women."

© Japan Today

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


15 Comments
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Asahi was a bit sloppy by the look of it but I for one certainly don`t believe they are the only ones. I,m sure Yomiuri and others had similar "slips" as well but given the right wing rise to power here in Japan it is the left leaning Asahi being hounded. In fact , it is a bit scary how systematically the current LDP govt. and forces behind it are effectively eliminating any opposition, first DPJ, then Your Party, Hashimoto and now media outlets not favorable to it....does not bode well.

7 ( +10 / -4 )

The Yomiuri is filled with LDP lies and propaganda. Why would anyone pay for that? I want to read newspapers that hold the government to account, instead of just printing whatever statements are issued without question.

Also, some people seem to think that the only evidence for the existence for Japanese-organised sex slaves are the comments of Seiji Yoshida. They ignore the many other sources and witnesses, desperately trying to maintain the fiction that it never happened. What a pathetic, sorry bunch of people they are.

13 ( +20 / -8 )

@Scrote

I want to read newspapers that hold the government to account, instead of just printing whatever statements are issued without question.

Well you'll be waiting a while, as much like the TV industry here, the print media in Japan does exactly that. Just passes on statements and regurgitates stories. Not one iota of criticism or skepticism anywhere.

7 ( +11 / -5 )

Most here soon realize once they have been in Japan a while that newspapers, TV etc etc are well pathetic, low quality, investigation is a word most have never heard of..................in a nutshell BAD, very very low quality.

Personally I have subscribed to the daily yomiuri( now Japan news(sic)) because I KNOW they are RIGHT WING goof balls, always wanted to read the crap they spew. But I tell you this year the BS & propaganda being spewed wrt China, Korea(s) & lately the Asahi newspaper is downright scary reading seriously messed up points of view & facts.............very few & far in between.

The Asahi has clearly messed up, but the vicious attacks I have read I can barely stomach in the Japan News this year is off the charts insanity. And all the while they publish a bunch of excerpts "analysis" of the emperors life that make him look like the Dalai LAma..............WTF!

And its scary to see so many think the Sex Slaves didn't exist because of single solitary guys words..............words cant really describe the stupidity I am seeing all too often, indeed scary scary stuff!

1 ( +7 / -7 )

Every country has the conservatives and the liberals and they both think each is the end of mankind as we know it. Sadly, neither side seems to want to rise above the fray and would rather get dirty.

-1 ( +2 / -2 )

Throughout this battle, the Asahi has been criticized for the mistakes made by one man. Reading the Yomiuri they make it out as if he alone had all proof and therefore all reports on the comfort women being forcibly taken are lies, RIDICULOUS!

If you think it's all a lie go travel to the countries that suffered under Japanese occupation. The Right, Yomiuri, LDP, by basing all their whitewashing on the Asahi's mistake attempt to claim it never occurred in the first place. This is insane.

After over a decade in Japan I see it lurching heavily to the right and towards more conflict with it's Asian neighbors over its past! Really sad all around - perhaps Asahi will now start fact-checking the Yomiuri's articles and we can have more newspaper wars.

4 ( +7 / -4 )

“comfort women” (a euphemism for women of various nationalities who serviced soldiers in special brothels)

Ironic how this article used euphemisms ("serviced" and "special" brothels) to define a euphemism ("comfort women").

3 ( +4 / -2 )

None of the Japanese thinks that there was not a charity dame. It is strange to require apology about having brought about tragedy called the prostitution in the battlefield in Japan. It existed as work in the armed forces of the world. They must choose the occupation by poverty, and I feel sorry for having been sold to a parent. However, Japan is answered in Japan-ROK Basic Relations Treaty since I did not force it as in the Japanese military or a state if settled. Why did the Korean government not guarantee them it from the indemnification?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

If you think it's all a lie go travel to the countries that suffered under Japanese occupation.

A Tokyo Christian University professor did just that and published his findings in 2007. What he found was the supposed kidnappings did not happen as described in the Asahi Shinbun. Read the whole document and decide for yourself whether most of the outrage over the comfort women issue was manufactured for headlines or not.:

http://www.sdh-fact.com/CL02_1/39_S4.pdf

(Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to view)

1 ( +4 / -2 )

I would like to buy one of those t-shirts!!!

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

None of the Japanese thinks that there was not a charity dame. It is strange to require apology about having brought about tragedy called the prostitution in the battlefield in Japan. It existed as work in the armed forces of the world. They must choose the occupation by poverty, and I feel sorry for having been sold to a parent. However, Japan is answered in Japan-ROK Basic Relations Treaty since I did not force it as in the Japanese military or a state if settled. Why did the Korean government not guarantee them it from the indemnification?

???

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

FadamorSep. 24, 2014 - 10:58PM JST http://www.sdh-fact.com/CL02_1/39_S4.pdf

Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact... Have you seen who these guys are and have you read their other positions on the responsibilities of Japan during WWII ?!

2 ( +2 / -1 )

The Yomiuri has been long known by many, mainly English-speaking Westerners, as the Gomiuri for a reason.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Society for the Dissemination of Historical Fact... Have you seen who these guys are and have you read their other positions on the responsibilities of Japan during WWII ?!

No I haven't. The things written about in the document I referenced were either performed by the author himself, or properly cited, so while there definitely is personal opinion in the document, it is relatively easy to separate the opinion from the facts in the document. While it's regrettable that he included his opinions in the document, the facts he ALSO include are enough to question the motives behind the Asahi reporter and his comfort woman mother-in-law when he first wrote the article. Compound this with the fact that no one in the Korean village of Jeju (the location where the former Japanese officer claims his unit performed abductions against the villager's will) seemed to remember any such thing happening during the war, and you have to wonder just how much of this comfort women kidnapping issue was manufactured for good headlines.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Stopped buying newspapers awhile ago, had a paper delivered to my home here for a couple decades, but with so much great news freely available on the net now there isn't much use for outdated media format.

Look around you'll find some really good news sites.

Many and varied sites gives you an objective and overall view opposed to just reading one biased news source.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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