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Number 1 Shimbun

Celebrating our 50th Year - Part III

No1-2018-09 07 1



John Harris took on the role of editor following the tragic events of March 11, 2011. The next month he oversaw a 24-page special edition full of personal, wide-ranging coverage of Japan’s worst disaster since World War II. From the halls of the FCCJ to the ravaged coastline, journalist members wrote about the experiences of those affected by the earthquake and tsunami – and the following nuclear meltdown – and their own experiences covering such stories.
It was an epic issue befitting the unique status of the Club as a news center, and highlighting the importance of the Club. Kudos to Harris and to a high-powered line-up of contributors: Julian Ryall, Chang-Ran Kim, Charles Pomeroy, David McNeill, Gavin Blair, Geoff Tudor, Eric Johnston, Martyn Williams, Justin McCurry, Kenneth Neil Cukier, Bill Emmott, Hen- ry Tricks and photographers Rob Gilhooly and Damir Sagoji.

“The aftermath of March 11 earthquake saw so much change. Club members went from reporting the everyday to reporting death and disaster every day. Our special issue of Number 1 Shimbun had to reflect that. We went through the images that included dead bodies – and had to decide whether we should print one. While other media rarely, if ever, printed such photos, it was nevertheless what our journalists saw and was part of their story. We went with an image where it was impossible to identify the person or location. With around 20,000 dead it seemed important.

But what most stands out is it being pretty much the only time I've selected a quote and placed it on the page with tears in my eyes: ‘They watched the fireman on top of the firehouse ring the bell until he and the building were swept away.’ And reading Julian Ryall's piece with accompanying photo of a teenager lost to the immediate trauma, again with tear-filled eyes. Our stress in Tokyo was of a lesser order, but it was there, and making a magazine so intimately tied up with the story, the writers and what the country was experiencing was interesting to say the least.

And we later tried to relocate that teenager for an anniversary piece but couldn't track him down. Even now, my heart goes out to him.”

--Andrew Pothecary (art director, Feb. 2007 to Aug. 2017)

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“The Number 1 Shimbun needs to exist to represent the Club and the values it stands for. To show Japan and the outside world that we value freedom of the press and how press freedom is the bellwether of a democracy. Journalists are quick to express their opinions sitting around a table at the FCCJ. It’s also important for our members to express themselves in the Number 1 Shimbun, to stir debate, to recognize injustice and to encourage freedom. And that freedom should include diverse, even obnoxious opinions. When I did a seven-page, comfort women special, I was keen to include the views of right-wingers who deny the horrors of Japan’s past. Let’s debate those who oppose our values and let’s expose those whose values damage democracy and press freedom. In short, let’s publish and be damned. Not publish- ing is definitely not the way.

Long live the Number 1 Shimbun!”

--Fred Varcoe (June 2006 to June 2007, June 2009 to Sept. 2010)



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As the world faced the reality of a Trump presidency in January 2017, the Number 1 ran my favorite of the many superb covers by Andrew Pothecary: “Welcome to the Year of the Cock.” Inevitably, not everybody approved. There were a few offended by the lack of respect for the office of president and somebody asked me what “had happened to objectivity?” It's a reasonable question as regards the media and got me thinking. I think true objectivity is a fantasy. We see everything through the prism of our experiences and beliefs. So, should we feign impartiality and normalize the presidency of a white supremacist, advocate of sexual assault, enabler of environmental destruction and liar on a level rarely seen even among politicians? The framing of the question is a strong hint as to my opinion. But for a cover to provoke both smiles and thought was an achievement in itself.

--Gavin Blair (chairman of Publications Committee, July 2014 to Aug. 2017)


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“I never expected to become editor of the Number 1 Shimbun, but I was asked by the president at the time to help keep the publication running during a time of change at the Club.

The credit for saving the magazine goes to Geoffrey Tudor, who helped us through a rough start to get things back on track. We had some design issues at first, but those were solved when we brought in award-winning designer Kohji Shiiki.
The most memorable part was working on the six-part series of Charles Smith’s memoirs. I felt a nostalgic connection through his writings. He reminded me of family. It was with incredible sadness that I learned of his passing in the middle of publishing his series. Charles and I may not have been close, but I felt as if dedicating an issue to him and finishing the series let me say farewell to a friend.

As for my favorite cover... that would be January 2018. I went with a photo of my dog holding a No.1 Shimbun newspaper to mark the year of the dog. Sadly he's no longer with us, but the cover was my way to give him a grand goodbye.
I had the pleasure of working with some fantastic writers and perhaps the greatest editor I know, Bradley Martin. It's with a bittersweet feeling that my time with the magazine is over. It was not an easy decision to make, but when asked by the president to move into social media and help with that, how could I refuse? I'm happy to have been able to see through the 50th anniversary issue, and want to thank everyone for their support of this Club treasure.”

--Albert Siegel (Sept. 2017 to Sept. 2018)



Published in: September 2018

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