Media Mix, March 19, 2017

Mako Oshidori

Here’s this week’s Media Mix about the press’s inability—or unwillingness—to question the government’s rush to repopulate the evacuation zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear facility. Of the examples I gave of media who have questioned this move, Mako Oshidori’s peculiar means of going about her task relates to the larger picture of media complacency in Japan, and it’s interesting that so much subtext was evident on the NTV documentary. NTV, it should be noted, is part of the Yomiuri media juggernaut, one of Japan’s more conservative entities, but “NNN Document” has always had a reputation for independence, mainly because each episode is produced by a different independent production company. NTV, I presume, just buys them without changing them too much. Since they tend to be broadcast either in the middle of the night on the main terrestrial channels, or on NTV’s satellite station, they don’t receive as much attention as NTV’s regular news.

So I was pleasantly surprised at how openly Mako was able to talk about the mainstream media. Her attitude, which informs her knockabout comedy style, is casual to a fault, so she’s just talking off the top of her head when she describes a director for TV Asahi (now dead, apparently) coming to her and confessing that his news show purposely did not air footage of people fleeing Tokyo after the Fukushima meltdown despite the fact that they had sent camera crews to main train stations and airports to film such movements. He told her that this sort of neglect was a “cross the Japanese media would have to bear forever,” which sounds a bit melodramatic but nevertheless emphasizes the notion that reporters and editors knew what was required of them as journalists. Mako also pointed out that whenever she attended press conferences with members of the government or Tepco, she could easily tell which reporters were following the wishes of the authorities and which ones weren’t, but that such distinctions were lost on TV or in the newspapers. She realized that so many reporters would habitually ask unimportant or redundant questions so that they could curry favor with the powers-that-be and thus could always have access to them. Mako knew that by continually asking tough questions she would annoy those powers-that-be and probably make herself persona non grata. And that’s basically what happened, but since she was so persistent she gained something through the sheer quantity of her reporting. Whatever else the NTV documentary about the Oshidoris revealed, these insights into how the mainstream media really work were invaluable.

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