|The story below is originally published on Mainichi Daily News by Mainichi Shinbun (http://mdn.mainichi.jp).|
|They admitted inventing its kinky features, or rather deliberately mistranslating them from the original gossip magazine.|
|In fact, this is far from the general Japanese' behavior or sense of worth.|
1995/10/22 Takeshi Ito Aera (10/23)
Freelance journalists in this country are working against enormous odds.
Corporate public relations offices and government agencies rarely grant them interviews.
And it is virtually impossible for them to travel every time important news conferences are held overseas.
They even find it difficult to attend press conferences here because of their cliquish nature.
But things are beginning to change.
A growing number of independent news gatherers are finding their way around these hurdles, reports Area.
Junichi Nakagawa is a good example.
The computer industry expert regularly attends news conference held by top IBM and Microsoft executives.
Not only that, he is allowed to ask questions and usually receives an answer.
He does all of this without leaving his home-cum-office in Kanagawa Prefecture.
How does he do it?
Aera says Nakagawa simply knows how to make use of the so-called "teleconferences" accessible via Internet.
"(At a teleteconference) there is no reporter who just sits there silently.
All participants come to ask question."
Aera notes that in one teleconference the general manager of one of the world's largest computer makers got into an argument with Nakagawa and proposed to meet the freelance journalist during his next visit to Japan.
If this kind of direct contact becomes popular, it will be the worst nightmare for journalists affiliated with the mass media.
Japanese reporters belonging to major news organizations never needed to ask sharp questions and get honest answers at a news conference because they had built a closed system for collecting news.
Known as kisha kurabu (press clubs), this system has long stood in the way of fair competition.
Under the system, notes Aera, journalists belonging to select mass media had almost exclusive access to press conferences.
In the political field, they further excluded unaffiliated competitors by refusing their participation in informal "off-the-record" briefing and joint nightly "chats" with government ministers and party leaders.
Members of press clubs enjoy such exclusive access to their news sources that they don't need to earnestly challenge their subjects at open news conferences.
There is even a national newspaper, name withheld, whole unwritten code has been to ask no questions at press conferences, reveals Aera.
But Japanese newsmen can no longer survive with such an attitude, reminds the magazine.
In addition to the aforementioned teleconferences, there has been an increasing number of open doors to news conferences.
This June, a satellite TV channel began unedited broadcast of all conferences held by major government ministers and leaders of the Big Four business organizations.
The Asahi Shimbun followed this month by starting to provide unedited conference texts to subscribers using a computer network.
"There used to be conferences held at the prime minister's official residence where no one asked a question." reveals an Asahi Shimbun staff writer.
"But now that conference data is open to all parties, reporters can no longer stay completely silent.
If they do, they will be severely criticized."
Increasing publication of conference data is likely to benefit not only freelancers but also affiliated journalists with ability and ambition.
Nikkei Shimbun's Tetsuro Wada informs Aera that electronic access could free working journalists from the demanding conference attendance schedule.
"The most significant information such as that which exposes unjustices in society," says Wada, "could only be gained through a one-on-one interview.
Journalists should leave information which anyone can obtain, like disclosure at press conferences, up to personal computer operators." (TI)