Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Newsweek Leaves Japan, Leaving Behind…

A reliable source has told me that Newsweek is closing its Tokyo bureau as of today. Hereon, it’s just stringers. If this latest offering is any indication of the Brave New Newsweek…Listen, do you want me to deconstruct this report, or should I just call it…that stuff that comes out of the wrong end of a horse, and leave it at that?

17 comments:

MTC said...

"Listen, do you want me to deconstruct this report, or should I just call it...that stuff that comes out of the wrong end of a horse, and leave it at that?"

Okumura-san -

There are many, so much better uses of your time.

Janne Morén said...

To be fair, the subheading (subsubheading?) is at least completely factually correct:

"Ozawa might just transform Japan. Then again, he might not."

Hm, let me try:

"Aso might just be a Reptiloid from outer space poised to enslave humanity, eat our young and show up on national television wearing tight, red spandex. Then again, he might not."

Hey, maybe I can get a job at Newsweek! Seems a lot more creative than this boring "facts and evidence" research gig I've been doing.

Jun Okumura said...

MTC: I actually copied the article onto a Word file and put edit notes on it, so I’ve already wasted my time. It’s because I not sure I wanted you to waste your time rereading the article that I didn’t post it on my blog. I could be overreacting because in the process, they let go one of our friends, who may not be as skilled a writer as this boy—he has real chops—but is certainly far more respectful of the facts…

…which is, Janne, the least I ask for from the media. But yes, I have also railed against the evils of “might”, “may” and “could”, though nearly not as entertainingly as you do here. I have a better idea: You should write for the Onion. But please, not Aso in red spandex. It’s going to ruin my lunch for sure, maybe even dinner. Now these are politicians I could dig…

tony said...

Jun, I see from your profile that you used to work for the Japanese establishment, and you write that you are friends with the Newsweek correspondent whom this writer has replaced.

You obviously have reason to object to the article irrespective of its value as journalism so I think its pretty cowardly to call the article horseshit without even offering one reason why.

Jun Okumura said...

Tony: A coward is someone who shelters behind the cloak of anonymity or hides anything that would indicate a conflict-of-interest. I am doing the exact opposite, as anyone with half a wit of a cucumber will recognize. Besides, anyone who has been reading my blog should know that my views on the Public Prosecutors Office’s agenda is rather similar to the minimalist claim coming from Ichiro Ozawa (in contrast to Yukio Hatoyama’s maximalist accusations), though I leave it others to pass judgment.

Note also that I have offered to deconstruct it and allowed that I already have something on my hard disk to that end. So far though, I’ve received one piece of advice and one insult, but no requests.

tony said...

Hi Jun. My comment wasn't intended as an insult, but as a challenge to say why you think the article is horseshit (which "is" an insult). Please consider that a request if you like.

It seems to me that the writer of the article (whom I know, and know to be a excellent journalist, for the record) is taking a swipe at the entire political establishment. In many people's opinion the actions of the Japanese political, bureaucratic and industrial establishment of the last few decades have made a god awful mess of Japan. David McNeill was spot on when he called Japan a "broken society".

McNeill obviously has a very cynical view of Japanese politians. In the absence of any explanation, I looked at your profile, put 2 and 2 together and guessed that that is what got your back up.

But I'd say in a fair world cynicism would be a pretty gentle reaction. It seems self-evident to me at least that the LDP and DJP and intellectually and morally bankrupt. Ridicule and outrage would be more appropriate.

To repeat, I'm interested to know why you object to the article. Is it the gist or the details? Just calling the facts wrong is hardly enlightening, as we all know journalists and bloggers each have different versions of the facts. What are yours?

Durf said...

Does all this mean there's a right side of the horse out of which things could also come?

tony said...

out of the horse's mouth, of course :)

Jun Okumura said...

Durf: Look in the horse’s other end. If the teeth look good, then that’s the good end.

…now…

Tony: Well, then, I was not using the phrase “half the wit of a cucumber” as an insult either but as a challenge to you to justify your allegations about my cowardice based on information that I revealed regarding my background and my friendship. Justify those allegations to my satisfaction—I have admitted mistakes and apologized on this blog, as LB and Public Interest will remember—or apologize (none of those “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings” stuff), and I will assume that you have made a request and will answer it. And don’t take it personally. I have pummeled at least two of my friends when I thought their comments here were out of whack.

While you make up your mind, let me give you some food for thought. Do you realize that I could very easily cast similar aspersions, using words like “obviously”, on your motives as a freelance journalist who moreover would very likely know David McNeill personally? And do you know why I don’t do such things? The same reason journalists shouldn’t either: assumption without corroboration is dangerous. Some things may be so obvious, but could nevertheless be at odds with the facts.

Finally, a piece of advice: Remember that you don’t “know” that McNeill is an excellent journalist; you only think he is. And once you “know” something”, you stop thinking. I’ve already given my assessment that he’s a “skilled” writer; he is too set in his liberal preconceptions and neglect of Japanese-language sources to be called a good journalist—unless you think that journalism is merely advocacy in disguise. You may agree or disagree with the trope of an article of his; either way, you can never be sure that he got the facts right, because he can’t be sure himself.

tony said...

As I said in my previous comment, I know David McNeill personally. Sematics aside, that's how I know (believe) that he is an excellent journalist.

Well, I was really hoping that you'd provide some kind of justification for your dismissal of the article. What a shame.

I just re-read the article, and here are the sources:

Japanese:

"DJP insider"
Sankei Newspaper
Masaru Tamamoto
Mari Miura

Non-Japanese:

Karel Van Wolferen
Tobias Harris

Now, apart from the fact that McNeill uses twice as many "Japanese sources" in the article as non-Japanese, there are two points here. One is that neither I, or (I presume) you actually know if these people are "Japanese" or not - unless you are judging their nationality on how Japanese their name sounds.

The other point is that you are assuming that Japanese sources are intrisically better. Irrespective of whether you agree was Van Wolferen as an academic or journalist, he's surely as well qualified to comment on Japan as any Japanese person.

As for your other criticism, "liberal preconceptions", that says nothing . . . and everything.

As I said, what a shame. Bloggers are criticised for just sitting at their computers and feeding off the work of journalists. But at least most bloggers try to provide some analysis. So far, you haven't even done that.

TokyoTom said...

Okumura-sensei, I'm occasionally roused to try to learn more about the institutional shortcomings of more than one county. Since you seem to have more to offer, can I trouble you to whisper some more nenbutsu in my ear?

Jun Okumura said...

Mmm, that's that.

BTW, Tokyo Tom, what's taking you so long?

TokyoTom said...

Sensei, thanks.

I'm 遅い because I'm とろい. Now what is it that I'm taking so long at again?

Jun Okumura said...

I do know you, don't I? I mean, Tokyo is a big place, but there can't be that many right-wing libertarian lawyers with a sense of irony named Tom here...

Jun Okumura said...

...right-leaning libertarians; sorry.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of this argument, besides bruised egos? McNeil's offering measured support for a change in the administration in a really ambiguous situation. I don't think the factual standards here are noticably any higher or lower than most other peices I've read.

Perhaps the problem is the constant need for periodic peices on (to most people, confusing, dull) party politics, and the dearth of investigative journalism on Japan in the English press?

Apologies, given the context, for posting anonymously.

Jun Okumura said...

Sorry, Anon, but I can't quite figure out what your're trying to say, so I'll have to leave it at that.