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Number 1 Shimbun

NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2019

NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2019 (62)

Children categories

New in the Library

Japan Story: in Search of a Nation, 1850 to the Present
Christopher Harding
Allen Lane

 

Empire of Hope: the Sentimental Politics of Japanese Decline
David Leheny
Cornell University Press

 

Oyako: an Ode to Parents and Children
Bruce Osborn
Sora Books
Gift from Bruce Osborn

 

Tinian and the Bomb: Project Alberta and Operation Centerboard
Don A. Farrell ; Gordon E. Castanza (ed.)
Micronesian Productions
Gift from Mark Schreiber

 

Dollars and Sense: How We Misthink Money and How to Spend Smarter
Dan Ariely and Jeff Kreisler ; Matt Trower (ill.)
Harper
Gift from Jeff Kreisler

New Members

 

REGULAR MEMBER

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YUMIKO HORIE is the deputy editor-in-chief of AFPBB News, a Japanese affiliate of Agence France Presse. She started her career as a Yomiuri Shimbun correspondent, covering a wide range of social issues, including natural disasters and remnants of war in Japan. Her interests include conflicts and humanitarian responses, which led her to an MSc in conflict studies at SOAS, University of London, and a subsequent career with international organizations such as the UN and INGO. She returned to journalism in 2018 with AFPBB.



ASSOCIATE MEMBERS

Miho Hoshino, Chuo Gyorui Co., Ltd.
Masayuki Yamada, Chuo Gyorui Co., Ltd.
Yuji Kumahara, Daiwa Asset Management
Takeshi Maeda, Mitsubishi Corporation
Katsunori Nishikawa, Matsui & Company, Ltd.
Noriko Sato, US Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan
Atsushi Yamakoshi, Keizai Koho Center



REINSTATEMENT (ASSOCIATE MEMBERS)

Toshio Egawa, Egawa Strategics Laboratory
Nobuo Jinnai, Sumitomo Mitsui Asset Management Co., Ltd.
Hiroko Nakamoto, K.K. Nakamoto

 

Historic artwork returns

13-1

 

“Blessing,” an artwork by the renowned artist Toko Shinoda that has long belonged to the FCCJ, was unveiled in a new place of honor by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike on March 29. The work was restored and reframed by the Tolman Collection, whose founder, Norman Tolman, is an Associate Member. 

“Blessing,” now displayed at the junction of the main corridor leading to the Main Bar, is a stunning example of traditional Japanese calligraphy and modern abstract expressionism by Shinoda, who turned 106 the day before the event. 

A number of her other works were also on display at the Club for several weeks, courtesy of the Tolman Collection.

In her remarks at the unveiling, Governor Koike, an admirer of Shinoda’s art, expressed her appreciation to the Club for its support of Japanese artists.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike unveils the artwork alongside the Club’s Second Vice President Robert Whiting, and celebrates with Norman Tolman.

Join the Film Committee…

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… on Wed., May 8 at 7:00 pm for the award-winning debut of 22-year-old director Hiroshi Okuyama, Jesus. Suffused with a nostalgic glow and told entirely through the eyes of its 11-year-old protagonist, the film follows young Yura as he moves with his parents to a rural backwater and discovers that his new school is Christian. One day, the Son of God appears to him during the Lord’s Prayer, and when Yura’s initial requests are granted, he quickly develops a belief in His power. But a tragedy leads to a full-blown crisis of faith. The debut of a unique new voice, Jesus is both comical and melancholy, and a real treat. Okuyama will join us for the Q&A session after the screening with actors Chad Mullane and Hinako Saeki.
(Japan, 2018; 76 minutes; in Japanese with English subtitles.)

– Karen Severns

 

Portraits of African musicians

Tsunehiro Takukuwa Photo Exhibition

 

Tsunehiro Takukawa first set foot in Africa in 1991. Since then, he says, “I have taken numerous portraits of some tremendous African musicians using a large 4x5-inch camera. I believe that this format helps capture the soul of the subject.”

Song, dance and rhythm are an indispensable part of the daily lives of Africans, and Takukawa says his photos are unsolicited love letters to the people he’s encountered on his travels. “Their engaging faces,” he says, “seem to represent something of humanity that the Japanese are in danger of losing. ❶

 

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Takakuwa Tsunehiro was born in Nagoya in 1955. He continued his photography while working as an editorial designer and editor, establishing himself as a photographer at the age of 30.

Lens craft

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Hand outs
People reach for the new Imperial era (and the free, special-edition announcement)
with both hands at Yurakucho station on April 1.
by Katsumi Kasahara/Gamma-Rapho

 

 

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Kaze
Picturing the wind earlier this year.
by Bruce Osborn



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Hanami-iiiii!
People enjoying cherry blossoms and a roller coaster ride
in Toshimaen amusement park, Tokyo, April 6.
by Yoshikazu Tsuno

That’s entertainment!

08-1

 

If the professional activities are the soul of the Club, the entertainment events are its heart. Meet the committee that brings the fun.

 

By Julian Ryall

 

After a long day chasing down leads, cajoling ministry officials to share information or placating a disgruntled editor, a hack really needs to be able to let his or her hair down, says Sandra Mori. And even today, in an era of instant amusement in a city that has countless outlets for relaxation, it is important that the FCCJ continues its tradition of putting on a show, she adds. 

That task falls to the Entertainment Committee, the group behind a surprisingly broad range of events at the FCCJ – from the annual family Christmas party to golf and billiards tournaments, national evenings, celebrations of cities and regions around Japan and the Club’s consistently popular Saturday Night Live events.

“The committee is here purely to satisfy our members,” said Mori, a Club member for more than 40 years. She first arrived in Japan in 1946, when her father was posted to General Douglas MacArthur’s occupation staff. “We are here to entertain and even educate, to provide members with music and culture that they might not otherwise have a chance to experience, such as local varieties of sake that are only available when a prefecture puts on one of its event nights,” she said.

 

MORI FIRST SERVED ON the Entertainment Committee as board liaison in 1999. She presently serves as chair of the five-strong team – “five is a good number because we get things done quicker and better” she confides – that plots members’ amusement for the months to come. She is keen, however, to make sure that credit for the foundations of the committee’s work is apportioned correctly. 

“Much of the good work was done by Glenn Davis, who started the Saturday Night Live program all those years ago. I remember going to dozens of live houses and other venues to check out acts that we wanted to bring to the Club,” she said.

“Saturday Night Live was dear to Glenn. Even after he retired and went back to the US, he keeps calling to ask what is going on and who is coming for the next Saturday Night Live,” she said. Davis remains an adviser to the committee, as does former Club president, Dennis Normile.

“After all the hard work that Glenn had done getting Saturday Night Live up and running, it was Dennis who really put meat on the event, making sure that we were bringing in really good performers and making it what it is today,” Mori adds.

Pressed for a personal favorite in all the years, she pauses. But it’s clear the hesitation is only because there have been so many memorable nights over the years. The night that brought together no fewer than 12 nations from Southern Africa, complete with their cuisine, music and dancing, is one that has stayed with her. So have the Christmas parties with wide-eyed children sitting on Santa’s knee, the benefit event for the New Orleans victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the evenings at which Japan’s legendary ninja got to show off some of their skills. A troupe of attractive dancers who put on a show at a Brazil night some years ago made for an unforgettable experience for everyone who was there, she added.

 

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Entertaining discussion

Members of the committee at the piano in the Main Bar:
left to right, Masayuki Hattori, Akihiko Tanabe,
Suvendrini Kakuchi, Kaori Furuta and (seated) Sandra Mori.
Sandra has been a Club Member for more than 40 years and on the Entertainment Committee for 20.

 

MORI IS A PROUD promoter of the events, pointing to the impressive crowds they regularly draw. “National nights always bring in more than 100 people and sometimes we can get as many as 150. It’s about the same for our city or regional nights,” she said. In February, she even asked for a night-out pass from hospital in good time to be able to attend the Club’s SNL Mardi Gras, with Washboard Chaz and Steve Gardener providing an authentic New Orleans sound. 

It’s obvious Mori has a soft spot for Saturday Night Live, which she describes as the “crown jewels” of the committee’s work – rattling off The Moonshots, Jim Butler, Gardener and jazz performer Harvey Thompson as some of her favorites. “With no cover and no music charge, it is always full,” she said.

The weekly treat is not only a must-attend for music lovers; it has become such a key part of the city’s live performance scene that bands are lining up for a chance to play at the FCCJ, Mori says. “These are bands that perform all around Tokyo and further afield, but they still want to come here for our members,” Mori said. “Right now, every slot is booked up for the rest of this year and nearly all of them only get one evening. They love the ambience, they know they’re going to be performing to a good crowd and that it will be a fun night out for everyone.”

 

MORI REFERS TO KAORI Furuta, who is the Club liaison on the committee, as “Miss Saturday Night Live,” and Furuta seems to embrace the role. “I really enjoy it because I get to see performers I have never heard of before and would not have a chance to see,” she said. “I have realized there is such a wide diversity of music on offer in Tokyo.”

Furuta said working with the committee is relatively straightforward because it operates so smoothly and musicians are booked as much as a year in advance. “We don’t really have to do too much work to get them here,” Furuta added. “They come to us asking to perform.” The new Club location has also helped attract musicians, with some saying that they prefer playing at the new premises, in part because the tiled floor in the new bar is acoustically far superior to the former FCCJ building, where the carpet served to muffle or deaden the sound. 

But leaving the Denki Building location after so many memorable events did result in some mixed emotions. Just before the move, the Entertainment Committee oversaw a “Sayonara Yurakucho” evening, an event that Mori describes as bittersweet. “We turned Saturday Night Live into a sayonara event as it was the very last event to be held there. It just seemed so fitting,” she said. Now, however, it is time to look to the future. ❶

 

Julian Ryall is Japan correspondent for the Daily Telegraph.

Are media companies liable for journalists’ trauma?

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An Australian judge recently ruled that a newspaper has “a duty to take reasonable care against the risk of foreseeable injury, including foreseeable psychiatric injury,” to its staff. Will this push newsrooms to change their health support for journalists?

 

By Matthew Ricketson and Alexandra Wake

 

A landmark ruling by an Australian court is expected to have international consequences for newsrooms, putting media companies on notice they could face large compensation claims if they fail to take care of their journalists who regularly cover traumatic events.

The Victorian County Court accepted the potential for psychological damage on those whose work requires them to report on traumatic events, including violent crimes. The court ruled on Feb. 22 that a journalist for the Melbourne-based newspaper The Age be awarded AU$180,000 (about $127,000 US) for psychological injury suffered during the decade she worked there, from 2003 to 2013.

The journalist, known in court as “YZ” to protect her identity, reported on 32 murders and many more cases as a court reporter. She covered Melbourne’s “gangland wars,” was threatened by one of its notorious figures, and found it increasingly difficult to report on events involving the death of children, such as the case of four-year-old Darcey Freeman, who was thrown by her father from a bridge in 2009.

After complaining that she was “done” with “death and destruction,” the journalist was transferred to the sports desk. But a senior editor later persuaded her, against her wishes, to cover the Supreme Court, where she was exposed to detailed, graphic accounts of horrific crimes, including the trials of Donna Fitchett, Robert Farquharson and Darcey Freeman’s father.

 

THE REPEATED EXPOSURE TO traumatic events had a serious impact on her mental health. YZ took a voluntary redundancy from the newspaper in 2013.

In her court challenge, the journalist alleged that The Age:

  • had no system in place to enable her to deal with the trauma of her work,
  • failed to provide support and training in covering traumatic events, including from qualified peers,
  • did not intervene when she and others complained, and
  • transferred her to court reporting after she had complained of being unable to cope with trauma experienced from previous crime reporting.


The Age contested whether the journalist was actually suffering from post-traumatic stress. It argued that even if a peer-support program had been in place, it would not have made a material difference to the journalist’s experience.

The newspaper also denied it knew or should have known there was a foreseeable risk of psychological injury to its journalists – while simultaneously arguing that the plaintiff knew “by reason of her work she was at high risk of foreseeable injury.”

Judge Chris O’Neill found the journalist’s evidence more compelling than the media company’s, even though the psychological injury she had suffered put her at a disadvantage when being cross-examined in court. 

“This is a historic judgment – the first time in the world, to my knowledge, that a news organisation has been found liable for a reporter’s occupational PTSD,” said Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma in the United States.1

 

THIS WAS NOT THE first time a journalist has sued over occupational PTSD, as Shapiro calls it, but it is the first time one has succeeded.

In 2012, another Australian journalist unsuccessfully sued the same newspaper. In that case, the judge was reluctant to accept either the psychological impact on journalists covering traumatic events or The Age’s tardiness in implementing a trauma-aware newsroom. In contrast, the judge in the YZ case readily accepted both concepts.

Historically, the idea of journalists suing their employers for occupational PTSD was unheard of. Newsroom culture dictated that journalists did whatever was asked of them, including intrusions on grieving relatives. Doing this sort of work was intrinsic to the so-called “school of hard knocks,” part of the initiation process for rookie journalists.

The academic literature shows that newsroom culture has been a key contributor to the problem of journalists feeling unable to express concerns about covering traumatic events for fear of appearing weak and unsuited to the job.

What was alarming in the evidence provided to Judge O’Neill was the extent to which these attitudes still hold sway in contemporary newsrooms. YZ said that as a crime reporter she worked in a “blokey environment” where the implicit message was “toughen up, princess.”

 

THE YZ CASE SHOWS The Age had learned little from its earlier court case about its duty of care to journalists. One of its own witnesses, the editorial training manager, gave evidence of his frustration at being unable to persuade management to implement a suitable training and support program.

The Dart Center has a range of tip sheets on its website for self-care and peer support. But what’s clear from this case is that it’s not just about individual journalists and what they do – it’s about editors and media executives taking action.

One media organization leading the way is the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The national broadcaster has had a peer-support program in place for a decade. Such programs are vital, not just for individual journalists, but for democracy and civil society. That’s because, despite the massive changes that have been sweeping through the news industry, there’s been no real change in the number of disasters, crimes, and traumatic events that need to be covered.

News workers need help. And they are beginning to demand it. ❶

 

Matthew Ricketson is a professor of communication at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia. Alexandra Wake is a senior lecturer in journalism at RMIT University in Melbourne. This article is reprinted from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

1. Disclosure: Matthew Ricketson is chair of the board of directors of the Dart Center Asia Pacific, which is affiliated with the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma in the US It’s a volunteer position. During part of the period covered by the YZ court case, he worked as a journalist at The Age. Alexandra Wake also sits on the Dart Center Asia Pacific board, and in 2011 was named a Dart Academic Fellow, which included travel to New York for training at Dart’s expense.

Michio Hayashi, Yomiuri Research Institute

06-1

 

by Gavin Blair

 

“I felt like I was carrying a copy of a universe in miniature,” says Michio Hayashi of the newspapers he delivered on weekends for eight years to save money to travel abroad. As well as allowing him to go overseas after university, delivering 300 copies of the “priceless collection of information from all corners of the world” also sparked his desire to become a foreign correspondent. 

At university in the mid-1980s, he studied news items from around the world, many about the Cold War, with a professor and a group of friends. Following graduation, he studied English in London for three months before joining the Yomiuri Shimbun in 1987. He spent his first four years reporting on local news in Hamamatsu in Shizuoka, “while the Berlin Wall was coming down.” 

During a stint back in Tokyo doing page layout in the evening, he attended French language school in the daytime. “Back then, wannabe foreign correspondents had to learn at least two languages,” says Hayashi, who laments the fact that requirements these days are less stringent. A chance encounter in the school’s smoking room led to his first overseas posting, a temporary, but life-changing, assignment to Afghanistan as the Mujahideen forces were taking over from the Soviet-backed regime. 

Next was a three-and-a half-year posting to the New Delhi bureau, from where he covered seven other South Asian countries, including frequent trips to Afghanistan to cover the ongoing civil war. There he was robbed at gunpoint, came under rocket fire more than once, witnessed limbs being blown off and had a bullet come through the roof of his taxi – incidents he says, “I never told my mother about.” The poverty in Afghanistan and India also had a profound effect on him, driving home the fortune of being born in a rich country.

 

WHILE IN SOUTH ASIA, a one-on-one interview with then Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto produced her first public declaration that her country would respond in kind to Indian nuclear tests. The most shocking story he reported on was the systematic infanticide of female new-borns in Bihar, India, carried out because the dowries necessary for daughters were said to bankrupt families.

Time back in Japan covering the lead up to and the events of the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics was followed by an invitation to the US by the State Department, which preceded an assignment to Washington. Expecting to write mostly on politics and economics, he found himself covering the events of 9/11 and the subsequent seismic shifts in America, which he points to as a factor that eventually led to the Trump presidency. “As a Pentagon reporter, I rushed to see the burned part of the building. . . . Standing on a highway in front of the gaping hole, I wept for a while. I did not know why,” he recalls. 

Something else from that day that left a lasting impression on Hayashi was the story of Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage sending his Pentagon staff home before he took part in a sweep of the building with sniffer dogs. Despite the heroism seen on that day, Hayashi believes it was the catalyst for the transformation of America from a “very generous country” to “deeply worried, suspicious, angry” though also “united.” 

Hayashi filed around a thousand articles from America in the year after the Twin Towers came down and remembers the “surreal feeling” of writing the first one after that not related to terrorism or national security.

 

HE RETURNED TO JAPAN in 2002 to cover politics, including the prime minister’s office, briefly, the foreign ministry and the then defense agency. Reporting on the base controversies in Okinawa was something of a natural progression given his knowledge of US military issues, he says. After a stretch as an assistant editor on the international desk in Tokyo, he was again posted abroad, this time to Brussels in 2006, from where he covered the EU, NATO and Benelux countries. 

The following year he was made Paris bureau chief, a post he held until returning to Tokyo as deputy editor of international news. In 2011, he took over running the Yomiuri’s operations in Europe as general bureau chief in London, from where he oversaw coverage of the London Olympics and Eurozone crises, including landing a one-on-one with then British Prime Minister David Cameron. 

Back in Japan in 2014, he wrote editorials on international issues before being appointed managing editor of The Japan News, the Yomiuri’s English edition, in 2016. Since 2018, Hayashi has been a senior research fellow at the Yomiuri Research Institute, where he writes long-form, in-depth pieces for the Yomiuri quarterly magazine, as well as some work for other media. 

Hayashi, reflecting back on his career, says, “I feel quite fortunate that my bosses allowed me to follow this path for nearly two decades – five overseas postings for about 15 years combined.”

Despite his accomplishments, Hayashi says he doesn’t consider himself “a true journalist,” a title he reserves for freelancers, award-winning reporters and editors in chief. Nevertheless, his only apparent regrets are having been posted overseas at the time of the Tokyo sarin gas attack, as well as the Kobe and Tohoku earthquakes. 

“I missed all these three major Heisei events,” he says, “so I really feel something is missing in me as a Japanese reporter.” ❶

 

Gavin Blair covers Japanese business, society and culture for publications in the US, Asia and Europe.

The life of Bernie Krisher, journalist and philanthropist

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When the former member of the FCCJ passed away in March, he left a legacy of journalistic and charitable achievements that won’t soon be forgotten.


By the
Cambodia Daily

Legendary journalist Bernard Krisher, former bureau chief for Newsweek magazine and member of the FCCJ from 1962 to 2001, passed away on March 5 at a hospital in Tokyo. He was 87. His death from heart failure was disclosed by his family following a private burial in New York.

Krisher, who began his career as a foreign correspondent in Japan, had dedicated his last three decades to humanitarian work in Cambodia.

Krisher was born on Aug. 9, 1931, in Frankfurt, Germany, where his mother had gone to give birth close to her parents. The family lived in Leipzig, where his father, a Jew from Poland, owned a fur shop. They fled Germany in 1937 for the Netherlands and France to escape Nazi persecution, and he attended two years of elementary school in Paris. When the Germans invaded France, Krisher’s family fled to the Spanish border seeking onward transit to Portugal. There, Krisher had a fateful encounter on the street with Aristides de Sousa Mendes, the Portuguese consul who issued visas for his family and countless other Jews, against the order of his government.

In 1941, the family emigrated to the US on the vessel Serpa Pinto, known as the “ship of destiny” for its role in transporting European refugees to safety on the other side of the Atlantic. After arriving through Ellis Island and settling in Queens, Krisher began attending New York City public schools despite his lack of English, and eventually graduated from Forest Hills High School. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in comparative literature from the city’s Queens College in 1953.

FROM THE TIME HE was a child, Krisher knew that he wanted to be a journalist. When he was 12, he started publishing his own small magazine for teenagers after the magazines he sold as a delivery boy went bankrupt. He filled his magazine, called Pocket Mirror (later Picture Story), which he mimeographed in his Queens apartment, with interviews of celebrities such as Babe Ruth, Frank Sinatra and Trygve Lie, the first secretary-general of the United Nations.

He said he learned most of his techniques of journalism during this time. “Persistence, energy, enthusiasm were the key essentials of this profession,” he said, “and the main enemy is cynicism.”

During college, he worked for the New York Herald Tribune as a campus correspondent and copy boy, including at the 1948 and 1952 Democratic National Conventions. He was also an editor at the college student newspaper, The Crown, where, at the height of McCarthyism, he wrote articles critical of the blacklisting of professors branded as communists and being dismissed from their teaching posts. Krisher took heat from the administration. When he didn’t stop writing the articles, the college president tried to have him removed, even writing the editor of the Herald Tribune in an attempt to have him dismissed from his job there, but the paper refused.

Krisher was drafted into the army in 1953 and stationed for two years in Heidelberg, Germany, as a reporter for the European Stars and Stripes.

He joined the New York World-Telegram & Sun in 1955, first as a reporter, then assistant editor.

From 1961-62, he studied at Columbia University on a Ford Foundation fellowship in advanced international reporting, specializing in Japanese studies at the East Asian Institute. In 1962, he left the World-Telegram & Sun and moved to Japan to join Newsweek as a reporter in the magazine’s Tokyo bureau.

 

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A comic book-style feature showing
a teenage Bernard Krisher editing his own magazine in 1947

 

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Emperor Hirohito greets Krisher
before their exclusive interview in September, 1975


HE HAD TRAVELED TO the country four years earlier when he was sent to Asia on a six-week reporting assignment by the New York World-Telegram & Sun newspaper, and met his future wife, Akiko, with whom he was married for 58 years until his death. He attributed the works of Lafcadio Hearn with inspiring his interest in Japan and on his decision to live and work there.

Krisher was promoted to Newsweek’s Tokyo bureau chief in 1967, a position he held for the next 13 years. He interviewed many notable personalities including all Japanese prime ministers and other politicians, business leaders and cultural figures. His most famous interview was a one-on-one exclusive print interview with Emperor Hirohito just before the emperor’s historic visit to the US in 1975. (For the inside story of this reportage, see the article “The Emperor, Newsweek and the ‘Nisei Onassis,’” by Eiichiro Tokumoto in the June, 2014 issue of Number 1 Shimbun.) 

Krisher’s beat included other parts of Asia, and he traveled widely through parts of Southeast Asia and made frequent trips to South Korea. He succeeded in landing the first exclusive interview with Indonesian President Sukarno in 1964, at a time when Western journalists were on the leader’s blacklist. Sukarno also introduced him to Cambodia’s Prince Norodom Sihanouk, who invited him to Cambodia.

Sihanouk, however, severed ties with the US in 1965, in part over the US government’s refusal to apologize over an article Krisher wrote for Newsweek. Sihanouk eventually restored diplomatic relations with the US, and the prince and Krisher subsequently formed a close friendship that led to Krisher’s humanitarian work in the country later in life.

Krisher was also supportive of Kim Dae-jung when the South Korean dissident was a political prisoner. He ran interviews and articles critical of the South Korean government in the magazine, and when Kim became president of the country in 1998, he kept his promise made years ago of granting Krisher the first interview.

After Newsweek, Krisher moved to open the Tokyo bureau for Fortune magazine in 1980, remaining its correspondent until 1984. At the same time, he joined a leading Japanese publisher, Shinchosha, as chief editorial advisor and helped start up Focus, a successful news-oriented photo-weekly. He later helped set up the Japanese edition of Wired for another publisher, Dohosha. He was also the Far East representative for the MIT Media Lab.

 

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Krisher pictured with Cambodia Daily editors Gretchen Peters,
Matthew Reed and Barton Biggs in Phnom Penh in the mid-90s

 

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Krisher meets with foster children and orphans supported
by his organization, in Phnom Penh in November 2011


IN 1993, KRISHER LAUNCHED the Cambodia Daily to help establish a free press in Cambodia. It was a time of reconstruction and rehabilitation in the country, following the 1991 Paris Peace Agreement concluding two decades of civil war and Sihanouk’s return from exile and instatement as head of state. It was the country’s first English-language newspaper and was a training ground for Cambodian and expatriate journalists, publishing local and international news to readers in Phnom Penh.

Against the advice of many, including Sihanouk who cautioned him that he might be killed, Krisher started the newspaper believing that a democracy needed a free press and told his staff that a paper should be like a gadfly to keep a check on those in power. The regime’s forced closure of the print edition in September 2017 drew international condemnation.

For Krisher, his crowning achievement was the construction in the mid-1990s of the Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, which provides free medical care to the poor and ran a telemedicine program in remote villages. He was the founder and chairman of the hospital, which was built on land donated by King Sihanouk.

A rural schools project which he also founded has, to date, built over 560 state schools across every province. While not personally wealthy, Krisher leveraged his rolodex and chutzpah to solicit funds from private donors, and the World and Asian Development banks. Known by many around him as Bernie “Pusher,” he once said, “I remain very New York – quite aggressive, confrontational against authority and establishment.”

Krisher credited the humanitarianism of Albert Schweitzer, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning medical missionary who had built a charity hospital in Africa and whom he met in New York in the 1950s, as his inspiration to embark on his work in Cambodia.

Krisher also made several trips to North Korea in the 1990s to distribute rice and medical supplies to famine victims.

Krisher is survived by his wife, his two children and two grandchildren. ❶

Excerpted with permission from The Cambodia Daily.

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