After being a sports announcer for NHK for 10 years, Yuko Aoyama found herself in a much bigger world when she became co-anchor last year for the network’s prime-time program “News Watch 9,” which airs on NHK General TV Mon-Fri at 9 p.m.
“I have to cover everything going on, including sports, and I’ve realized that I really don’t know much. But that is what makes this job so interesting,” says Aoyama. “It’s opened my eyes to so much about the world that I didn’t know before, and made me a more inquisitive person. Now, when I deal with current issues, I look at how other media are covering it, as well as try to predict what sort of turn it will take in the future.”
Born in Hiroshima, Aoyama attended Tsukuba University in Ibaraki where she studied sports science. After graduating in 1995, she started working at NHK as an announcer for both general news and sports. She covered the Nagano Olympics in 1998 and the Beijing Olympic opening ceremony last year. She has been co-anchoring “News Watch 9” with Goro Taguchi since April 2008. Her bright demeanor has helped make the program popular with viewers.
“Sometimes we receive as many as 100 phone calls after the program. Some people call in for requests to cover specific issues as well as point out that the reporting was biased,” Aoyama says. “Others may call in asking about the clothes I wore during the program, so it really varies. It’s not like viewers are going to believe everything that we tell them; they’ve all got their own opinion and they’re not afraid to speak up and critique us.”
Aoyama says her parents are her best critics. “They voice their opinions on the contents of the program and which parts were unclear to them. They also talk about my gestures, my way of wording things, and the way I talk. I always look over ‘News Watch 9’ after it’s over and evaluate how I did, although I end up forgetting the points I need to improve on before I get to apply them.”
One thing Aoyama would like to see more of on the program are inspirational stories. “When I was a sports announcer, I could report on stories like baseball players hitting a home run, but when it comes to news, so much is about accidents and depressing incidents that occurred during the day. There have been nights when I went the entire hour without smiling. I wish that rather than simply reporting what goes on, we could throw in some positive advice or words of wisdom here and there that could potentially help lift the negativity surrounding our society today.”
Preparation for the program starts early in the day. Aoyama shows up at NHK around 1 p.m. “We have our first editorial meeting at 1:30 p.m. During the planning, I try to voice my opinion on how the program should be structured, but a lot of the material ends up changing before we go on air, since news is constantly being updated. For much of the time until we go on air, I watch various news programs and start practicing as soon as footage that we will be using for ‘News Watch 9’ is finalized. My day doesn’t usually end until about 1 a.m.”
As a result, most of Aoyama’s free time is in the mornings. “I’m at home, so I get to eat a relaxing breakfast and watch TV. I like to cook, listen to music and watch DVDs. I also play golf on the weekends, and go to tea ceremony lessons once a month,” she says.
Looking back on all the famous people she has interviewed, Aoyama says Nobel-winning novelist Kenzaburo Oe was memorable. “He had his own vision of life and a great imagination. He made me realize that we should be prepared for the future by constantly looking ahead and making predictions. I think that out of the many sports players that I have interviewed, baseball coaches Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima were two who made a lasting impression. I could see how their success stories that we’re used to seeing and hearing about regularly were the products of extreme hard work and passion toward their sport.”
And who in the world would she most like to interview? “My response used to be Tiger Woods, but I would want pick U.S. President Obama,” she replies. “Obama has a solid view of the future and has proposed various plans to accomplish certain goals, regardless of how difficult they may seem. I wish we could have such a powerful figure in Japan.”© Japan Today