WaiWai Revisited: a follow-up to this post*
PS recently told me that Japan Times carried columns by Mark Schreiber that cover more or less the same sleaze-and-tease stuff as WaiWai but hadn’t caught any flak from the Japanese blogosphere. I looked up Mr. Schreiber on the Internet and sure enough, 2 Channel posters have been mentioning him in the same breath with the ill-fated Ryan Connell. (Read this thread if you need to know more.) However, there are significant differences between the two cases that lead me to believe that JT and by extension Mr. Schreiber will survive any public onslaught, online or otherwise. Read on if you are interested.
First of all, Mr. Schreiber is only one of three writers whom produce one item each for the weekly JTfeature and offending item Tokyo Confidential. I don’t have the time to be determine whether or not Mr. Schreiber is the singular sex maniac that the Channel 2 denizens make him out to be. But the triad appears to be producing summaries of a wide range of articles, the majority having decidedly non-sexual themes. I think that they depict a reasonable cross-section of the material found in Japanese shukanshi weekly media. Which brings me to my second point…
TC sports a very strong disclaimer:
"Tokyo Confidential summarizes articles appearing in vernacular tabloids. The views expressed herein do not reflect those of The Japan Times, nor can we vouch for the veracity of the contents."
Now compare that with the Mainichi disclaimer:
"WaiWai stories are transcriptions of articles that originally appeared in Japanese language publications. The Mainichi Daily News cannot be held responsible for the content of the original articles, nor does it guarantee their accuracy. Views expressed in the WaiWai column are not necessarily those held by the Mainichi Daily News or the Mainichi Newspapers Co."
Note the difference between JT’s "vernacular tabloids" and the MDN reference to "Japanese language publications". Vernacular tabloids cover the territory between The Sun/National Enquirer and Weekly World News. In fact, although JT does have its dosage of Shukan Jitsuwa reports, it also carries summaries from more sober weeklies such as the Yomiuri Weekly and Spa!. The media groups that control these publications alongside mainstream dailies and broadcasting networks would bristle if they realized that their publications were being put in the same basket as the sleaze-and-tease publications like Shukan Jitsuwa or Shukan Taishu or that little-known Ryan Connell favorite Nakkuru. MDN by contrast obscured, deliberately or not, the nature of its generally seamier samples.
Third, a stand-alone, English-language publication should be far less vulnerable to this kind of pressure than a mainstream, full-service media group. A boutique publisher, JT can afford to be more adventurous. Controversy can help more than it hurts.
Thus, armed with a more powerful if somewhat exaggerated disclaimer, and nestled in a triptych by a couple of presumably less priapic writers, Mr. Schreiber is in the clear. With little or no corporate exposure to the Japanese-language market, JT can keep taking that to the bank.
* I think that you’ll find the ongoing dialog to be of interest, even if you’ve already read my original post.
Norimitsu Onishi Slips in Another One on the “Pub Taxis”
First of all, let me say that I respect and enjoy Mr. Onishi’s work. His sympathy for his favorite subjects—loners, losers, outcasts—gives his offbeat stories a charm that the run-of-the-mill, Japan-is-weird report lacks. But his latest piece on DPJ crusader Akira Nagatsuma and the “pub taxi” scandal portrays sterner stuff. To quote:
Mr. Nagatsuma, 48, has become the nation’s chief muckraker. He again grabbed front-page headlines recently by exposing the widespread practice among elite bureaucrats of using taxpayers’ money to take taxis home at night, and accepting drinks, gifts and even cash as kickbacks from drivers looking for repeat fares. The revelations surrounding the “pub taxis”, as they became known*, made him an even more feared figure among bureaucrats. And they elevated his standing among voters who first heard of him last year when he uncovered widespread bureaucratic mishandling of the national pension records.
Now, being the target of an investigation by Akira Nagatsuma, the reporter turned DPJ crusader, is about as painful as its get for the bureaucracts in his crosshairs, so, as a former bureaucrat, I may be getting a little sensitive here. But: “elite bureaucrats”? Anyone with an eye on the Japanese media should have known that it was the non-elites—the grunts and NCOs—of the Japanese bureaucracies who had been availing themselves of the largess. There, Mr. Onishi would have found a fascinating story about a small group of entrepreneurial non-corporate taxi drivers trying to survive in an oversaturated taxi market. Dig a little deeper and he probably would have been able to write a story about a different group little guys, this time in the bureaucracy.
I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt; I’ll take it on faith that he did not just make it up when he used the word “elite” without any source whatsoever. Yet he clearly would not have done so without some preconceptions about the subject of his story—preconceptions that fit his visceral attachment to the underdog. And this would not be the first time that he has tweaked the facts to better fit his narrative.