Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW)/日本からの意見

Japanese Media as a Mirror of Japanese Society
TSUJII Takashi / Writer/Poet

March 9, 2005
Why is it difficult for a theory on media--as well as its criticisms—to stand on its own? The complexity of the subject arises from the fact that media-transmitted information, opinions, news, and scenes are not the onlydetermining factors in discussing the subject, but that media audience, such as the viewers and readers, also drastically change the features of this topic.

A common complaint is that our national newspapers and TV networks are all more or less the same, and that when a certain incident catches the attention of the masses, every network and company endlessly covers it to the exclusion of other crucial affairs.

I happen to thoroughly agree. In many other countries, newspapers and broadcast networks each have their own distinct personalities, and an educated guess as to what stance a given media outlet will take on a topic often turns out to be right. A reader or a viewer can then proceed to pick and choose on a case-by-case basis the paper or TV channel that will supply the person with the needed viewpoint that will provide him or her the necessary ideas.

There is nothing wrong with choosing entertainment programs by its guest performers or by how satisfying the stories are. When it comes to news and opinions, however, input from those on the receiving end suddenly becomes more sporadic.

It is often asked why Japan doesn't have a quality paper of high standards. It seems to me as though the reason lies with the lack of opinion on the side of the media-receiver.

When a person feels something is absurd or wrong, one goes in search through the media for what will provide a theoretical framework to his or her hitherto indefinable thoughts. It is then that a quality paper becomes essential.

These days it is often the case that the many members of the media are devoid of definitive views themselves and look to public opinion surveys--cabinet approval rating is a popular one--for pointers in writing their columns. Such surveys repeatedly demonstrate that mass society is no longer in touch with what could be called its good sense or its guiding philosophy.

Even among those originally designated to be opinion leaders, there have emerged pathetic souls who nervously seek to pander to majority opinion rather than speak their own minds.

What has inspired such an ideologically spineless society?

One view is that the pervasiveness of TV has made passive receptacles of many a TV-viewer. There are some who claim that lack of national objectives have stripped the people of their sense of determination. Others lament that excessive academic competition that demand of youths only rote learning has robbed them of time necessary to develop their critical thinking skills.

Each of these reasons is partially valid. But to varying degrees, these deficiencies also hold true for most industrial states. Our nation has the additional burden of a dwindling sense of community, falling birthrates, and the disappearance of teachings that would have filled inherent human yearnings for the religious and the spiritual. We must of course pursue the matter further and consider why these things in turn have taken place; but let us discuss this another time. If we are to recall the principle that the state of the national media mirrors the cultural state of that society, then it seems to me that today's spiritless conditions can trace its roots to the way in which the last war was lost and the subsequent ambiguity in post-war management.

The author is a writer and a poet.
The English-Speaking Union of Japan

辻井 喬 / 作家・詩人

2005年 3月 9日











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English Speaking Union of Japan > Japan in Their Own Words (JITOW) > Japanese Media as a Mirror of Japanese Society