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2015BODSimms

Volunteers.

Look at almost any aspect of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan and these are the people that are almost always behind it.

Whether that’s a budget, press conference or microbrewery beer tasting, someone has taken time – often significant – out of their schedule to plan, write notices or crunch numbers. (Of course, our management and staff are equally or more critical in these endeavors.) And while it’s not all selfless, volunteering probably pales in comparison to spending more time on a story, a business project or with one’s family.

Even with the dozens of journalists and Associate Members helping us carry out our core mission of promoting media access, press freedom and fraternity among our Members and foreign and Japanese journalists, we still need more people to chip in. We often have to turn to the same group of eligible Members time and time again. (One area of expertise, for example, where we are short is information technology – all the more important as we plan for our 2018 move to new premises.)

There are some issues affecting our ability to get people to devote more time.

We, as a Club, aren’t getting any younger: The average age of Members is around 62 and expected to rise further. That means retirement, people leaving the FCCJ or moving away. And the internecine rancor, which I don’t remember as being so stark when I first joined, and lack of basic decorum at times has turned off many of our fellow Members, especially younger ones, from getting more involved. (Neither does it help with recruiting or retention.)

Some of our Club volunteers have borne the brunt of online attacks – quite a few ad hominem – by people on the inside and outside for the volunteer work they have done for the Club. Disagreements are part and parcel of the FCCJ, all the more understandable for an organization made up of journalists. But discussions should stick to the facts and be civil: In other words, the debate ought to befit that of a professional and fraternal organization.

Moreover, the numerous anonymous attacks by Japan’s so-called netto uyoku (internet right-wing) strike at our fundamental press functions. We must remember what our core mission is, as set out in our Articles of Association, and protect, as necessary, the Club and those being singled out for carrying that out.

So, the next time one is tempted to grumble about some aspect of the Club, step back, take a deep breath and think: “Can I offer a constructive solution with my criticism or offer a word of appreciation for those volunteering? Am I willing to give up some of my time to move the FCCJ forward?”

On a housekeeping note, again please keep the evening of Oct. 30 free to join in celebrating the FCCJ’s 70th anniversary at the Palace Hotel. Tickets for the event go on sale Sept. 1.

Finally, we broke the ten-month dry spell on ruling Liberal Democratic Party executives and administration officials speaking at the Club. Toshihiro Nikai, the chairman of the LDP’s General Council, gave a press conference Aug. 19 and spoke at length on the crucial topic of Sino-Japanese relations. Hopefully, this will be the start of top officials from the ruling party and government again coming to the Club. In the next two months, as part of our efforts to get more business and financial speakers, we also plan to have some top auto executives ahead of the Tokyo Motor Show, which starts in late October.

— James Simms

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