Sunday, September 07, 2014

Irony Bites - The Yomiuri Shimbun Edition

Everyone makes mistakes oh yes they do
Your sister and your brother
And your dad and mother too
Big people, small people
Matter of fact all people
Everyone makes mistakes so why can't you?

- Sesame Street, "Everyone Makes Mistakes"

Last month Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's largest circulation daily newspaper and a staunch ally, nay, the house organ of Prime Minister Abe Shinzo's administration, severely criticized its main rival The Asahi Shimbun following the Asahi's admission last month that a number of its articles on the comfort women published in the 1990s contained unprovable and likely false information:

After a review of its reports on the so-called comfort women issue, which has become a huge thorn in the side of Japan-South Korea ties, The Asahi Shimbun has admitted its mistakes in the reports—albeit partially—and retracted some of the contents.

The retractions allude to reports on remarks by Seiji Yoshida, who claimed to have forcibly taken away local women from Jeju Island, South Korea, to make them serve as comfort women. During World War II, Yoshida was said to be the former head of the mobilization department of the Shimonoseki Branch of Romu Hokoku-kai, an organization in charge of recruiting laborers.

In September 1982, the newspaper reported—without verification—the remarks of Yoshida, who claimed to have "hunted up 200 young Korean women in Jeju Island."

Misperceptions about Japan

The report added fuel to anti-Japan sentiment in South Korea, and also became a basis of misperception of Japan spreading through the world. In its Tuesday morning edition, the Asahi concluded—for the first time—that Yoshida's remarks were baseless, and finally retracted the newspaper's reports regarding the remarks.

We cannot help but point out the correction should have been made at a much earlier stage. Doubts about Yoshida’s remarks have been raised as early as 1992. The newspaper’s negligence in allowing the issue to linger for more than 20 years is deplorable.


The Yomiuri's criticism, sharp and unforgiving, is still restrained as compared to the enervated glee of the Fuji Sankei Group's Sankei Shimbun and the legions of Japan Keyboard Defense Korps members like economics blogger Ikeda Nobuo and National Fundamental head honcho Sakurai Yoshiko -- who have simply gone overboard in their demands for retribution against the Asahi for its errors.

The Yomiuri's restraint in its mirth over the Asahi's too credulous reporting demonstrates an inadvertent wisdom in the editorial office -- because this week, it was the Yomiuri that swallowed a fish tale, hook, line and sinker.

In a pair of exclusive reports, the Yomiuri reported that prime minister Abe Shinzo was going to appoint Takaichi Sanae as minister of economics, trade and industry -- which prompted me to tweet:

and that Obuchi Yuko would be the new secretary-general of the Liberal Democratic Party, which prompted me to rant:

The last time I looked, and that was today, Secretary-General of the Liberal Democratic Party is a serious, serious job. It requires an intense understanding of policy, party financial and personnel matters. It is a lightning rod, having to deal with intra-party resentment, political feuds, local versus national politics and demands for funds. It is also a very public post, with the secretary-general frequently having to interact with the news media as the party's top representative.

A nightmare, in other words.

Into this spot Abe purportedly wants to slot a five-term (5 terms is the usual minimum number of elections for consideration for a first cabinet posting) House of Representatives member, a legacy member with but a single stint in a minor, invented cabinet post, as not just the first woman but the youngest person ever to serve as secretary-general of the only party in Japan which really matters.

(Link) turns out that both of these exclusives did not only sounded bogus, they were bogus -- which prompted the Yomiuri to print an extraordinary postscript to its Friday story on Obuchi's becoming secretary-general having been a longtime and thwarted dream of the prime minister:

The Yomiuri Shimbun's Political News Department has operated a dedicated team over the past month or so to cover matters related to Wednesday’s Cabinet reshuffle and shakeup of top LDP executives. Our coverage has been based on the work of as many as 30 reporters who gathered information on developments by contacting members of the LDP and the Prime Minister’s Office, among other sources, and thoroughly and comprehensively scrutinizing the information available.

Yomiuri articles that reported Abe as considering appointing Obuchi to the LDP secretary general post and Sanae Takaichi as likely to become economy, trade and industry minister may have misled our readers.

When covering political circumstances that change constantly, we will make further efforts to offer fast and accurate reports based on diversified information-gathering and careful news judgment.


"May have misled our readers"?

Is this not the point where one is supposed to say, "We blew it!"?

Or do the editors at the Yomiuri need a little more time?

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