Over the last several hundred years, humankind has increased the volume of information existing in the world through books, newspapers, magazines, radio and television and has given itself real-time access to this information. Today, the mass media is undergoing dramatic changes with the emergence of the Internet and social media. These dynamic changes in the environment provide the mass media with an excellent opportunity to reinvent itself. It is my earnest hope that the mass media will continue to evolve through open and free competition with new media and that higher standards of journalism will be achieved through this process.
1. Have Responsibility and Self-Awareness as Mass Media Representatives, and Pursue Fair Reporting
In 2015, after 32 years, the Asahi Shimbun finally admitted that its reporting on comfort women was erroneous. Asahi bears a heavy responsibility for worsening the relationship between Japan and South Korea as a result of this erroneous reporting, as well as undermining the image of Japan overseas. It is Asahi’s duty to provide a detailed explanation to international organizations and other relevant parties (the United Nations Human Rights Council, the U.S. House of Representatives). It must proactively correct errors and talk to the world in order to improve the deteriorated Japan-South Korea relationship and dispel international misunderstanding.
It is important for a media outlet to present various discussions and opinions and monitor the government. However, the temptations of sensationalism as a means to gain a bigger audience and the impulse toward populism to cater to mass-market tastes must be avoided. It is particularly important for television, which uses the public airwaves, to have a sense of responsibility and self-awareness in using these airwaves and to pursue fair reporting based on facts.
2. Develop the Full Powers of Journalism – Don’t Just Criticize But Also Present Proposals and Policies!
In my interview with journalist Soichiro Tahara, I asked him, “What is journalism?” His answer was that “The role of journalism is to criticize those in power.” I then asked him, “Instead of constant criticism, why not voice your support for good things or present positive proposals?” In response, Mr. Tahara shared a very honest comment that had been made by the editor-in-chief of a major newspaper: “Criticizing is easy, but making proposals and suggestions is a very demanding task.”
We expect journalists to report social issues with a critical eye. But it is also necessary for them to be prepared to agree with and present proposals on matters of social significance. Journalism consisting solely of constant criticism inhibits constructive discussion and leaders facing criticism will become exhausted. There should be more approaches that support those taking on a bold challenge. Particularly in political coverage, more focus should be placed on policy issues rather than making commentaries about political situations.
3. Actively Engage in Communicating with the World!
The media has been globalized. CNN, CNBC, Al Jazeera, BBC, CCTV and other media outlets based in the United States, the Middle East, Europe and China broadcast news in English to the world. Newspapers such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Financial Times (acquired by Nikkei in 2015), are positioned as international papers and have a global news system. There are also globally distributed magazines, such as Fortune, Forbes and Bloomberg Businessweek. In Japan, the Nikkei Shimbun started the Nikkei Asian Review, and NHK provides an international perspective with its NHK World service. The government has increased its budget for overseas communications to further promote its globalization efforts. Under these circumstances, it is expected that the media will increase its awareness regarding news distribution around the world.
4. Create an Environment that Promotes Open Competition using the Internet through Substantial Deregulation!
New curation media, such as NewsPicks and SmartNews, connected to social networking sites have been increasing their presence. Emerging media such as that on the Internet and social media will continue to evolve, changing the very definition of “the media.” In order to help existing media address these changes, we should attempt to break down long-held taboos so that healthy competition within the media is encouraged. Expected efforts include the aggressive elimination and revision of all laws and regulations that protect vested interests and shut out new entrants, such as the abolition of “resale price maintenance systems,” the revision of the Broadcast and Radio Acts (liberalization of licensing and radio waves), and the revision of the principle of excluding multiple ownership of the media (restrictions against cross-ownership of media).