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Peter Langan 160px

Dear FCCJ Members, We have just completed another Board election at your Club and as you will see from the message sent out from the office, we have some new officers on the Board. It’s an especially warm welcome to Abigail Leonard as first vice president and Daniel Hurst as secretary.

Both will be bringing their significant journalistic talents and experience to ensuring the FCCJ remains relevant to newsmakers and the journalist of today and the future.

We also have a returnee to the Board in Director-at-Large Dan Sloan, who brings both news and corporate experience to the role. Thankfully for the FCCJ, our numbers man Willem Kortekaas will continue as treasurer. Willem is working on a comprehensive five- year business plan for your Club. (It’s so impressive I borrowed sections of it for this message.) Everyone’s favorite author Bob Whiting rounds up the officer positions as second vice president.

Space restraints prevent me from going into the roles of all Board members, for which I hope they will forgive the oversight.

The old adage is “crisis brings opportunity” so one could argue the FCCJ has plenty of both – though I would contend that “crisis” is a generally overused word.

My reading is we have four priorities facing us: The Move, F&B, PAC and Membership, not necessarily in that order. As far as I’m concerned, all roads in the FCCJ lead to PAC. Our newsmaker events distinguish this Club and make it what it is. So that priority is one I have particular interest in.

For The Move in October to new premises, the hunt for a new F&B provider, and Membership initiatives we are most ably assisted by the Club’s new General Manager Marcus Fishenden. Marcus has a wealth of experience in these fields and the FCCJ is especially fortunate to have him at this particular stage of its evolution. (An example of crisis meets opportunity?)

At the risk of boring some readers, it’s perhaps worthwhile to reflect on what the FCCJ is.

With its PAC program as its core, and supporting social activities and services, the Club aims to provide a professional working environment for journalists and to be a valuable location for information gathering and professional exchange for all its members.

The Club aims to provide foreign correspondents in Japan and other journalists, including visiting correspondents, with various forms of access to news sources in Japan and overseas. The Club is committed to defend the freedom of the press and the free exchange of information. Further, the Club promotes friendship, harmony, and mutual welfare in both professional and social relations among Japanese and non-Japanese journalists. The Board you have most recently elected has plenty on its plate to help achieve these goals and every FCCJ board, of course, never completes the task. It’s passed on for others to carry on.

Journalism is not by any measure a “dying” profession but its means of practice and execution has changed, though that is always the case, it’s just that some disruptions are bigger than others – like the invention of the printing press and the Internet.

(Note: Journalism schools in the US are reporting a surge in applications. Thank you, Mr. Trump.)

The Internet has changed the model of journalism. Traditional print media have gone into decline. Many legacy jobs have been eliminated as a result. The number of overseas correspondents and bureaus has fallen. Print media rely increasingly on outsourced news from the large wire services. A number of active free-lance journalists exist but the increasing commoditization of news make it difficult for them to sustain themselves. Hence, many take on other work to make a living.

The major wire services, especially Reuters and Bloomberg, have little need for the Club as a source for news. (Though note that the FCCJ still has significant drawing power for some newsmakers and it’s not beholden to the whims of billionaire owners. The latter qualification alone is priceless.)

A whole new group of online publications has emerged in the form of websites, newsletters, blogs, etc. This has had consequences for standards of journalism and for the technical needs on the part of journalists working for this type of publication. In fact, a new type of specialist journalist has emerged, capable of providing news not only in print but married with the photography, video and audio that online publications demand.

These changes are likely irreversible and will continue to evolve. For this reason, we need to continue asking ourselves the question how does the Club remain relevant and accessible for journalists and what the Club can do to support them?

As we chew over and respond to that question, Japan will play host to some of the world’s biggest sporting events in the coming years, as well as the G20 next year. It’s located in one of the most dynamic regions on the planet and tourism numbers keep breaking records. (Significantly, many are repeat visitors -- in other words, once people discover Japan, many keep coming back.) I could also mention what’s unfolding on the Korean Peninsula. Sounds like opportunity to me.

-Peter Langan

 

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