Media Mix, Oct. 2, 2011

photo: Kazuaki Nagata

Here’s this week’s Media Mix, which is about coverage of the Sept. 19 antinuke demonstration in Tokyo. That the column is next to a long interview with journalist Satoshi Kamata, who talks about the same thing, is more or less an accident of timing. Though I was aware the Kamata piece would be in the same newspaper I didn’t know the content. Still, I could have predicted it seeing that Kamata was one of the organizers of the demonstration and contributed at least one opinion piece to the Tokyo Shimbun. One of the points he made in that piece, though he only hinted at in the Japan Times interview, is that the mainstream media’s “low-key” coverage of the event is basically an insult to the people who demonstrated. A similar opinion was advanced in the same newspaper by attorney Ikuko Komchiya, who stated that the news value of the demonstration as shown by the number of people who showed up was denied by most of the media, which means the press ignored the way people “live in the world.” Both comments are to a certain extent as sentimental as the TV Asahi coverage I cited in the column, but there is an important difference. The TV Asahi coverage was presented on its morning wide show, where sentiment is acceptable. Elsewhere, in media that is ostensibly “serious,” sentiment is suspect. That may explain why NHK has yet to even run an in-depth feature on the demo. I expected to see something on “Closeup Gendai,” but so far NHK has chosen to ignore the demo. Except for Tokyo Shimbun and, to a lesser extent, the Mainichi and Asahi, coverage in newspapers was limited to the back-of-the-issue “society” page, which is usually reserved for what in the West are called human interest stories. So while sentiment has some news value, the implications of the people’s will in this case seems to have been slightly unsettling to the mainstream media, above and beyond whatever obligations they feel they have toward the government and the energy industry. Despair as expressed by individuals who are the vicims of official policy is OK to cover, but collective anger at such policies is not. This paradox deserves more and better analysis than I can give it at this particular moment. Maybe later…

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