FROM THE COVER THROUGH THE INSIDE OF THIS edition you will find an extensive celebration of the life and craft of Murray Sayle, who died on Sept. 19. Alas, there is not enough space in our magazine to adequately cover the long career of this larger-than-life character whose presence defined our Club for so many years. Adieu, Murray! This feature would have been so much better if you were here to write it.
When I first began reporting from Tokyo in 1982, the FCCJ's position was vastly different from today. Japan was a looming economic superpower and editors worldwide were hungry for reports of its seemingly unstoppable progress and explanations of its success.
At the same time, Japanese audiences had little awareness of what we wrote. Sometimes a diplomat in a distant capital would clip and translate a story and fax an outraged report to Tokyo. Or translated items might appear in the Japanese editions of American news magazines.
Today, sadly, Japan is a sideshow for the global media, notable mainly as China's neighbor. But thanks to the Internet, observant bloggers and increasing facility in foreign languages, Japanese audiences are now much more aware of what we write.
In this altered environment, our Professional Activities Committee podium must be seen in a completely new light. It retains an important role as a "soapbox" from which Japanese politicians and business leaders can address the outer world. But, increasingly, the latent power of our podium lies in its visibility to the domestic audience.
In a land where public discourse is still largely dictated by kisha clubs and the ideological filter of major media outlets, the FCCJ represents a uniquely independent perspective. Through our choice of speakers we have the ability to give voice to those who might otherwise be ignored.
In this way, the FCCJ has an opportunity to play an important role in Japanese civil society and democracy. But we have yet to fulfill our potential.
Although important to the domestic discourse, PAC events featuring interests ignored by domestic media are often of no interest to our overseas editors. So while these may provide useful background for foreign correspondents, speakers are often disappointed to find their efforts generate little or no coverage. As we work to bring more events of global relevance to the Club, I believe we must also seek ways to amplify our domestic events.
Today's Internet tools offer us the ability to deliver the full narrative of our FCCJ programs to a nationwide audience, unfiltered by the domestic media. In the same way, we can provide the Japanese audience with direct access to what our members tell the world about Japan in media outlets around the world. If we succeed at doing this, we will build the stature of our Club in Japan and around the world.
This is why I have asked the committees in charge of FCCJ's media – our website, our magazine and the walls of our Club – to identify new ways to deliver our message to external audiences. Leading this effort are Martin Koelling, our 1st VP in charge of House & Property; Martyn Williams, chair of Information Technology; and John Harris, chair of Publications.
They tell me they are examining many possibilities, including: live video streaming and online text summaries of PAC events; use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media; better online display of an externally focused No. 1 Shimbun; and more.
As president, I am impatient. I want to move quickly to implement these ideas and I intend to keep up the pressure to achieve results.