Kyodo News President Mizutani “We can’t exist without affiliates” (8)
2023.07.12 14:59 Nanami Nakagawa
On November 14, 2022, Kyodo News reporter Yoichi Ishikawa was in a hearing by Shuhei Masunaga, General Manager of the Legal Affairs Department, and Kentaro Shimizu, Planning Committee Member of the Human Resources Department, General Affairs Bureau. This is because he criticized the Nagasaki Shimbun in his book published by Bungeishunju.
Criticism of the Nagasaki Shimbun is factual.
Nagasaki Prefecture confirmed Kaisei Gakuen’s proposal to the bereaved family that the suicide of Hayato Fukuura was a “sudden death.” This is the scoop that Ishikawa reported from Kyodo News. However, the Nagasaki Shimbun did not report this incident at first. After the prefecture admitted that it was inappropriate at a press conference, the Nagasaki Shimbun wrote an article defending the prefecture while other media criticized the prefecture.
In his book, Ishikawa described the attitude of the Nagasaki Shimbun as “ignoring” and “following the prefecture.” He also pointed out that the Nagasaki Shimbun had been receiving a large amount of money, including advertising fees, from the prefecture. During the hearing, Ishikawa countered that he was only criticizing based on facts.
Nevertheless, Masunaga and Shimizu try to persuade Ishikawa to admit his fault.
Why does Kyodo News care so much about the Nagasaki Shimbun?
Kyodo News Company Newsletter “Kyodo News No.892” (April 25, 2023) obtained by Tansa
Even if you praise the award from the Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers’ Unions
During the hearing, Ishikawa was questioned, mainly by Masunaga, General Manager of the Legal Affairs Department. However, along the way, Masunaga made a number of desperate remarks after being lacking in offensive skills.
For example, when Ishikawa told him that he had not wavered in his decision to write what had to be written, Masunaga agreed and said:
“This is a little treacherous, but as you said earlier, based on how the bereaved family reacted, couldn’t you just report on how the bereaved family received what the Nagasaki Shimbun reported as a criticism?”
Masunaga says that if the criticism of the Nagasaki Shimbun was reported as the view of the bereaved family, the author, Ishikawa, and Kyodo News, to which Ishikawa belongs, might have been able to avoid protests.
Shimizu, a member of the Planning Committee of the Human Resources Department, praised Ishikawa.
In January 2022, Ishikawa received the “Keiichiro Hikita Award” from the Japan Federation of Newspaper Workers’ Unions, which is made up of labor unions of newspaper companies, for a series of reports on the bullying and suicide problem at the private Kaisei High School in Nagasaki City, reported by Kyodo News.
The selection committee for the award is composed of photojournalist Natsuki Yasuda, former AERA editor-in-chief Keiko Hamada, journalist and former Kyodo News reporter Osamu Aoki, and former Mainichi Shimbun reporter Hiroshi Dai. “Even after he was transferred from the Nagasaki bureau to another bureau, his ingenuity and persistence in trying to somehow convey the case make us look forward to his further success in the future.”
Shimizu said, “Your work was highly evaluated for writing straight news for a long period of time, which was the reason for winning the award. I think it was a wonderful report.”
Nonetheless, Ishikawa is still blamed until the end. Masunaga says:
“Well, I’ll ask again, but at this point, do you feel like apologizing to the Nagasaki Shimbun?”
75% of operating expenses come from affiliates
Kyodo News is so persistent because the Nagasaki Shimbun is its “customer.”
Kyodo News distributes its own news to 56 news organizations nationwide called “member companies.” Most of the member companies are local newspapers, including the Nagasaki Shimbun. Local newspapers cannot have reporters all over the country or around the world. It is a mechanism in which local papers pay Kyodo News for their contents in fields that cannot be covered by daily newspapers.
Member companies are a source of revenue for Kyodo News. Toru Mizutani, President of Kyodo News, explains the importance of affiliated companies to Kyodo News employees. The following are the words that were said to the new employees at the joining ceremony:
“About three-fourths of Kyodo News’ operating expenses are covered by monthly corporate expenses paid by member companies” (April 2020)
“Newspaper circulation is declining year by year, advertising is down, and the business environment in the newspaper industry is becoming more difficult. However, our member and subscribing companies are making every effort to support our management. Please keep in mind that there is no joint existence without member and subscribing companies.” (April 2021)
“A total of 56 member companies of 55 newspaper companies nationwide and NHK are paying ‘company expenses’ for operating expenses, which accounts for three-fourths of Kyodo’s total budget.” (April 2022)
“Recently, the price of paper has been increasing even more, but even in such a difficult situation, our member companies, subscribing newspaper companies, and subscribing broadcasting stations rely on us to create good newspapers and good programs. Please keep in mind the significance of the relationship with the member and subscribing companies.” (April 2023)
President Mizutani is not the only one who puts the member companies first. In the company newsletter, it seems that it has spread to executives as well.
A prime example of this is Takehiko Egashira, Director of the General Affairs Department. In this case of the Nagasaki Shimbun, he is the person in charge of dealing with Ishikawa. In the September 25, 2020 issue when he became Nagoya bureau manager, he said:
“When I was told about this transfer, I felt uneasy that my sense of being strongly aware of the news gathering and editing sites, member companies, and subscribing companies was weakening. I have not been in the bureau office for 13 years. This is going to be the first time I work for the Nagoya bureau office as well as the jurisdiction. It’s not enough to say, ‘Brace yourself.’”
Call for another hearing
The November 14 hearing lasted two hours. At the time of parting, Masunaga asked Ishikawa’s newborn child, “Is it hard to take care of a child?” When Ishikawa replied, “It’s easier to work,” Masunaga and Shimizu laughed and the atmosphere became friendly.
On the evening of November 18, 2022, four days after the interview, he received an email from Ichiro Masamura, the chief of the Chiba bureau office to which Ishikawa belongs.
“It seems that the head office wants to hear from you again. How about Tuesday the 22nd?”
To be continued.
(Originally published in Japanese on May 29, 2023. Translation by Mana Shibata.)Adults in the Student Suicide Case: All articles