Sunday, February 27, 2011

Failure of Priorities: Examining Japanese news

As a student of journalism, I have a tendency to analyze news critically. What I observed yesterday on the evening news frustrated me greatly.

First, ask yourself what news journalism’s primary purpose is (or is supposed to be). Hopefully you will realize that conveying important and relevant information in an objective manner is what news should ideally be. Relevance is relative to audience, whether local or national, etc. Already you’ve probably started realizing the failures of your own “news” organizations, and I strongly suggest not forgetting that.

News broadcasts in Japan have proven to be no different than broadcasts back home in the sense that their priorities are quite off. What adds to the frustration is that time allotted for news broadcasts here are significantly less than back in the states, making that time even more valuable.

Instead of spending that time wisely, last night NHK spent the first 15 minutes out of the 30 minute broadcast on a single story of cheating on a college entrance exam.
College entry in Japan is quite challenging and thus highly esteemed. Preparations for the test consume countless hours of high school students’ time. It is often the cause for a lot of anguish. Performance on exams is the key to getting into one’s college of choice, and many jobs hire only students from the top colleges in Japan.

Yesterday’s coverage involved an isolated incident of one student cheating. Online evidence showed that a student had been using a cellular phone to ask questions on the Japanese version of Yahoo Answers. The news detailed exact times when questions and replies were posted, emphasizing that it had all occurred during the exam time.
This type of coverage serves little purpose for most of its viewers other than sensationalizing an event for entertainment or a topic of conversation. It could possibly be intended to pummel fear into students to prevent attempts at teaching. Does it really require broadcasting on national television taking up precious news real estate?

Following the exam incident coverage, a very short mention of Bahrain was given, but I caught no update on the situation in Libya. The remainder of the broadcast was dedicated to the daily update on New Zealand, primarily centric on the fact that there are several Japanese people still missing and their families travelled to New Zealand to assist in the search.

I look forward to going back home so I can observe whether our news is so centric only on elements related to America when natural disasters occur. Japanese coverage has been almost entirely on elements related to Japan.

There is little to no competition among news corporations on local broadcasting from my observations. However, my host family has less than ten channels via analogue. News broadcasts seem to be limited to NHK. Therefore, ratings seem to be little incentive for sensationalized stories. Still, news in Japan needs to reassign its priorities (and certainly back in the states as well).

1 comment:

  1. This doesn't really sound that different from American news coverage, sans content (for obvious reasons). Except American news coverage will sometimes block out serious things, too.

    Example: yesterday's rally in Madison which had ~100,000 people, almost over half of the population of Madison alone (which I believe is around 240,000), was done peaceably with no counter-protesters or any sort of violence with people coming all over the country to protest. Yet, supposedly there was a brownout of coverage on CNN, MSNBC, and some other major news sources.

    As far as natural disasters go, it depends. I think you'll recall the huge coverage of the Haitian earthquake--yet, barely any for the Chilean earthquake which happened at about the same time. I'm not sure how these people are picking priority of access to news coverage for these events, but they happen.

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