"Toyokuni" by Ando Hiroshige
If you go beyond the line of common wishy-washy journalism in Japan, you enter into a lot of good stories. But you have to clean up. What to eliminate? The PR agents tours, study tours, field tours, fake specialists, corporations invitations who enrolled reporters, sometimes on the pay roll, propaganda departments. Often the target is the professional press, unless these invitations are built appropriately with informative content, and not only a pale postcard of an old Japan, press agents in Japan are out of course. A departing from usual or accepted standards in journalism.
Of course there are these organizers who do not have basic interest into what reporting is. Their line is: "to achieve real information dissemination (press reports)". Salesmen disguised as PR agents and feed reporters with the latest line of concepts or products.
How does it happen? We invite you for a visit somewhere, name it study tour, field tour etc. Basically nothing I can sell to my Editors. These are proposed and organized and often paid by PR and communication agencies, corporations or administration. An interview with a minister of the cabinet, an interview or a PR of a minister... an interview with an analyst, a foreign official invited in Japan and plenty of such scratching the head thing.
The good thing when you work with a big media is that you can always say "yes, I can (...) but I am not sure your candidate is worth more than 15 seconds on the network." There is a world outside and we need news, contents, information, not your boring PR.
Things is we have news, real news of what is happening. Insurrection, revolution, financial crisis, war and invasion, murders and air line accident, volcanoes explosion etc.
Naturally, in addition to what Japan seems frivolous to sell to foreign media, there are also really good stories.
And I have been working on excellent items lately. Japan and North Korea, Japan and China, Japan and the cornerstone friend (the US), Japan and the euro, Japan and the military industrial complex, Japan and the corruption, Japan and the discrimination. Japan and the underground world.
You can replace Japan with any other country name probably I suppose?
Now there are time when PR can become quite offensive, defensive. I'll explain later.
But my biggest happiness is when an official sent by Japan Inc. invites me for a coffee and chat.
Operation number 1: brainwash me on saying that what I said or wrote was incorrect and that they will feed me with new correct data and more.
Operation number 2: introduce me to specialists and invite me for a working week-end.
Operation number 3: Orchestrate a reputation destruction campaign.
Operation number 4: Departing from usual or accepted standards the spooks -- corporate, cops and related. For instance, one thing happened to me recently: "A source told me that I have been investigated by the Japanese secret services as a Foreign Correspondent in Japan, for having special information about China! Matters of interest: news, connections, friends in Beijing, Shanghai... Next time Mr... might call at the club, I'll buy him a drink and talk about journalism and freedom of press. Horrendous damages expected to the snitches and spooks (a 3 courses meal at Fccj) ☝(THis was posted on facebook and followed by a support or warning message: "Be a tad careful Joel. People who control other people with guns can be a pain sometimes.")
So it is a real thing.
Now what are the estrange tools of some extreme PR. Beyond Japan Inc (excluding the bureaucracy)
Operation number 5: start the harassing thing, never know how and where it will fall. You, your reputation, your friends, family, children, in laws etc (the mafia specialty)
Operation number 6: Sending women spooks, or, offering money. (Industry, spooks)
Operation number 7: the physical impediment (the kick, break the arm, burns with cigarettes, and in Japan, the cut. I am told it rarely ends into the bullet in the box. (common practice in politics and banking according to one of me honorable female colleague of the FT)
We repeat the moto: in Japan, sometimes, journalism clear purpose is: "to achieve real information dissemination (press reports)" not to inform the audiences. I wish these PR people move away from true journalism, although the worst is when they mix the functions ("le mélange des genres") and I have a couple of names in mind in Tokyo these days who live under the principle that "a lie is sometimes justifiable expedient."
Well, not, actually.
I know that Foreign Correspondents in Japan, China, Korea, everywhere, are targeted by little monomaniacs dictators of the communication, or monitored by spooks (phone, mails, emails) private or public just to manage the potentiality of the dissemination of an eventual information that would bring an added value to the society.
I often went through such things, the preventive monitoring... Sometimes reporting is already hell, war coverage being the worst with the underground work.
I can quote here the excellent Italian reporter who discovered the truth about the Aum sect who killed people in 1995 in the Tokyo subways or suggest to read my story about my Tibet first report in the late 80's and my recent encounter with the Dalai-Lama about it.
The worst being when you deal with obsessive behaviors such as North Korea for a Japanese cop, or islamist terrorism for a NSA agent, Falun Gong or Dalai Lama for a Chinese public security officer, immigration for a French home affairs minister, or Romanée-Conti (a Grand Cru of Burgundy wine in France) for a Californian wine exporter.
For these censurers, some might act with benevolence eventually, there is only one rule: information control to achieve real information dissemination.
Real information dissemination here is a metaphor, it actually means to tell a lie!
Fortunately, I know 2 or 3 Japanese Great Communicators who know how to put things back on tracks. They deal with international journalists for decades, one f them is very close. I'm told that these days, small and also major Japanese corporations, local governments ask for their valuable experience. So do I. No suspicion, no bullshit, just plain and clear work.
The good thing with journalism is that your quill pen is your weapon. A formidable instrument of power if you know how to use it and what for... right Mr... ?