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Yoshimasa Suenobu

Yoshimasa Suenobu [Profile]

Will TV Personalities Called Journalists Be the End of Japan!?

Yoshimasa Suenobu
Specially Appointed Professor of Journalism and Political Communication, Faculty of Economics, Chuo University

Will Japan, which has sunk to the bottom, find the light of the way out in 2011?

The author reporting on the Gulf War as a war correspondent
In front of a violently burning oil well in Kuwait

Politics was chaotic, without proposing national visions to be achieved, and the media repeated flimsy comments again and again-Japan in 2010 looked truly ugly, which would inevitably be described as the very fate of a parvenu nation in which social unity was lost, hope dispelled, and economic growth halted. Seeing the gloomy social situation where the youth were not offered adequate jobs and where adults with a bit of money sought momentary pleasure, I felt as if I had witnessed the end of the collusive relationship among the government, the bureaucracy, industries and the media in Japan-as the only Asian star based on the post-war industrialization characterized by an economy of mass production and mass consumption-or the end of a nation that hesitated to transform its escorted-convey style governance system to a new one. In 2011, the nation will be tested for whether they can address the challenge of completely destroying the existing governance system and starting to build a new one. The idea of social business recently drawing attention is also the embryo of a new society, not to mention the example of the Grameen Bank for poor Bangladeshi farmers, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. It is my hope that we strive for such innovation by boldly changing our mindset while preserving good traditions. I remember this year's Hakone ekiden, the traditional university marathon relay race held every year during the New Year's Holidays. Watching the hard work by Chuo University's anchor Junichi Shioya (second year, Faculty of Science and Engineering, a graduate of Yachiyoshoin High School) who desperately moved his exhausted and probably cramped body and shook off the Takushoku University runner who was chasing him to cross the finish line sixth, I was deeply moved and impressed by him never giving up and enduring to the finish. My first class this year was the FLP Suenobu seminar on January 8th (politics and journalism studies), and after that, we had a New Year's party at a Japanese pub in Takahatafudo. Friendly conversation among forty students including thirteen new members who will participate in the seminar from April reminded me of myself a long time ago-continuing to contemplate my future dreams amid my anxiety. I will do what I can do step by step, while I hope that my young Chuo student friends will have a future filled with dreams-even during this long period of economic decline during which Japan failed to escape from the prolonged stagnation of the lost two decades-this is my New Year's resolution.

Political leaders, talk to the people with conviction and do not flatter the media!

Nationwide local elections will be held in April this year. The first round on April 10th will elect governors of 13 prefectures including Tokyo, prefectural assembly members in 44 prefectures, mayors of 5 ordinance-designated cities, and city council members in 17 ordinance-designated cities, while the second round on April 24th will appoint mayors of 233 cities, wards, towns, and villages around the country, and prefectural and municipal assembly members in 730 regions. Even though local elections for choosing local political leaders must be important as the basis of matured democratic nations, the turnout in Japan has been declining from over 80% in the 1950s to the level of 50% in 2007. This dramatic drop in the turnout might be evidence of abnormalities caused by the exclusive devotion to postwar economic growth, the political control through tied subsidies led by the bureaucracy, and the escorted-convey style centralization of power in Japan. Since the introduction of the single-seat constituency system made Diet members' constituencies smaller, more and more political leaders in municipalities have advanced to the Diet bypassing the intermediate positions. It is desirable for us to participate in these nationwide local elections with great interest, partly for the purpose of digging up political leaders of the next generation at the national level. Because high-quality local informational TV programs remain lost in the Tokyo metropolitan area, I hope that TV stations as public institutions will alter their ways of thinking and rouse themselves. For the time being, we should carefully read and examine local manifestos shown on brochures for expected candidates that are dropped into our mailboxes, and check their policies and personalities using the Internet. When it comes to politics at the national level, English conservative thinker Edmund Burke defined parliament members under indirect democracy as the representatives of the nation as a whole. It is a common problem across all ages and civilizations that lawmakers tend to dole out pork barrels to their constituents instead of considering the long-term interests or future prospects of the nation. With populist politics and telepolitics prevailing these days, more and more politicians have also become so frivolous as to expose themselves on TV and other mass media in order to win popularity and secure positions as national political leaders. Every time I see politicians flattering TV program producers in corridors in TV stations, I cannot help feeling that it is unbearable and pitiful. While people are paying attention to so called spin issues, or the media controlled by political power, as well as the trend away from the existing media and the accelerated prosperity of the Internet media, a more fundamental issue would be the existence of politicians who no longer speak with conviction, as they cater to the image of the masses behind the TV screen that is arbitrarily created by TV stations. In order to encourage true leaders, let us counteract by improving our media literacy and comparing programs on TV, reports on the radio, and articles in newspapers to avoid being deceived by the mass media.

Will TV Personalities Called Journalists Be the End of Japan!?

Last year, we often saw some people on TV who called themselves war journalists or battlefield photographers becoming famous for their funny characters or giving press conferences about love affairs. Are they in the field for becoming popular or entertaining women with their talk and whisky? It seems a bit odd to me that people who had been newspaper reporters now chat and comment on the news on TV gossip shows instead of writing articles, and trade on their names by writing signed newspaper columns once they have successfully established themselves publicly. We can also see some university professors enjoying giving nonsensical comments on TV programs that make fun of politics just to get ratings. In 2011, the existing media and the Internet media will genuinely seek out competition and coexistence, and we can expect a restoration of Journalism as a Profession, making the most of the nature and characteristics of those media.

Yoshimasa Suenobu
Specially Appointed Professor of Journalism and Political Communication, Faculty of Economics, Chuo University
Born in Yamaguchi Prefecture on 9 November 1954
Political journalist and media researcher
Professor Suenobu became a Specially Appointed Professor on the Faculty of Economics at Chuo University in April 2009 after serving at Ritsumeikan University as a visiting professor. He teaches on the Faculty of Economics, and his courses include: Special Lecture (I and II), Internship TV Station Course, and FLP Journalism Course (A, B, and C).
Professor Suenobu graduated from Waseda University and joined TV Asahi in April 1979. He had assumed various positions including: city news reporter; political reporter; director for a program entitled The News Station; New York correspondent; war correspondent during the Gulf War; bureau chief in Bangkok; producer for a program called All Night Discussion TV [Asa-made Nama Terebi] and The Sunday Project; manager for the Economics Department; and manager for the Political Science Department. He left the company and became an independent political journalist in 2004 when he was fifty years old. Professor Suenobu is also currently a lecturer for Naigai Josei Chosakai of Jiji Press and an operations advisor for the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).