Thursday, January 03, 2013

Intracorporate Media Bias: 3.11 Debris

The following two memos concerning the source of possible media bias in covering the disposal of the debris from the Great East Japan Earthquake are an afterthought from a morning conversation that I had with an old friend who is working on a book. I should not be saying anything more about the book until it comes out. However, the memos were generated solely at my end of the conversation and make sense by themselves. I hope that other people find them useful.

1.    There's intercorporate mainstream media bias with Sankei on one end of the spectrum and Asahi on the other, then there's intracorporate bias, with Keizai-bu (the economic bureau, page 8- or thereabouts, after the pp 6-7 international news) and Shakai-bu (the national bureau, penultimate and antepenultimate pages, where the daily cartoon is featured) representing the sober, establishmentarian and populist ends respectively. The Seiji-bu (political bureau) is probably where true power lies (other than Nikkei), but I assume that the national bureau can sometimes give it a run for the money. (The international bureau is irrelevant/harmless enough that someone like Funabashi can become a major figure at Asahi. Speaking of which, it amuses me when journalists from the international bureaus represent Japanese perspectives on international panels. That's a little like having Christiane Amanpour or Nicholas Kristof give a talk on the US presidential election.)  The front-page real estate is up for grabs.
The Fukushima coverage was a no-holds-barred, full-court press, which gave the usually irrelevant science bureau (where some reporters actually do have some S&E background) cover something other than the Nobel Prize. However, the local debris reports brought the national bureau (and the local bureaus) into play, possibly leaching out scientific angles while giving straight reporting on local fears more space than they deserved.

2.    Some of this is firsthand knowledge but much of it is extrapolation of things that I know. If you want to use any ideas there, you'll have to put the matter to other people and draw your own conclusions.

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