Member Login

Member Login

Password *

Number 1 Shimbun


NUMBER 1 SHIMBUN 2019 (98)

Children categories

Kathrin Erdmann

05 20190208 remm KathrinErdmann011adapt


By David McNeill


Kathrin Erdmann has been in Japan for less than six months but has already had her share of surprises. Take public prosecutors. In her native Germany, reporters expect them to give detailed briefings of ongoing cases. “Here, they say just ‘no comment’,” she laughs, recalling her first calls to stonewalling prosecutors on the detention of Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s defrocked boss. “If you’re talking about a democracy, it is really shocking that they don’t respond.”

Then there is immigration, which Germany knows something about too: It has fielded over 1.4 million asylum applications since Chancellor Angela Merkel resisted demands to close the country’s borders in 2015. Erdmann doesn’t underestimate the difficulties of accommodating such a tsunami of foreigners. “It took a long time; we had a lot of problems with refugees and still have, but we understood that they have to speak the language, and we have to make it easy for them to find a job.”

She sees no such system here. “In Japan, [refugees and immigrants] have to learn Japanese themselves; there are no programs to integrate them and learn the customs – and this is much more important here. This country needs immigration.” Erdmann says the missing ingredient is political leadership. “You have to really change the minds of people. This has to come from the politicians but they are not really interested in attracting immigrants. My impression is that they only see them as second-class people.” 

ERDMANN COVERS JAPAN AND a large chunk of East Asia, including Korea and Taiwan, for ARD, Germany’s powerful consortium of regional public broadcasters. A Berliner, she studied politics in the city before joining NDR (Northern German Broadcasting) as a freelancer in 2005. NDR put her on half-time staff in 2011. The Tokyo bureau is her first full-time position. 

The decision to come halfway across the world wasn’t easy, she says, during an interview at ARD’s office in the upscale residential district of Shoto, just around the corner from the home of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. For one thing, she had to leave her partner behind in Germany. “I cannot ask someone to give up and follow me here. By the time we would go back he would be in his mid-50s.” 

Erdmann hopes her efforts will bring a fresh perspective from Asia to her millions of German listeners. The focus of her predecessors – all men – she says, was economics; she leans toward social issues. “I’d like to do stories on women, on poverty and how homeless people really live.” She wants to look at businesswomen who buy men in host bars and says stories about Japan’s kawaii culture are popular back home. She recently visited a fashion show, the first ARD correspondent in 12 years to do so.


05 20190208 remm KathrinErdmann004

ERDMANN IS RELUCTANT TO deploy the usual, sometimes clichéd historical comparisons between Germany and her new host country. “I think it’s too complicated,” she says, of the discomforting legacy of World War II. “Nobody understands why Japan has such difficulties with the past.” Still, the past can’t be completely avoided: “As a correspondent you can’t choose,” she says, noting that she has already been snagged for stories on comfort women. 

Not surprisingly, perhaps, given German’s nuclear-phobic reputation, Erdmann was invited to visit Fukushima soon after she arrived. The resulting look at the cleanup from Japan’s 2011 disastrous triple meltdown was “more or less” a promotion tour but she says that’s perfectly natural. “If I were a foreign journalist in Germany, of course, I would not expect them to show me the country’s weak points.” Still, the technical complexity of the story means she is dreading a March 11 deadline. “I would love to do a human story about someone who has been displaced instead.”

Like many Japan-based foreign correspondents, Erdmann often finds herself busier dealing with stories about its isolated neighbor, North Korea. Last October, she went there to report. “I had a lot of fun,” she says, recalling a “very good” cappuccino in Pyongyang and a trip to the mountains. “People were singing, dancing, and they had a barbecue. It was another face of North Korea. Of course, I know it’s a difficult country but I could only report what I saw.”

Japan and Germany could still learn a lot from each other, she says. While Merkel is criticized for accepting so many Syrian refugees, Erdmann thinks that on balance the open-border policy will be good for Germany. “On the other hand, I appreciate very much this deep culture and tradition in Japan. In some ways, we gave up on that in Germany.” The important thing, she says, is to show respect to the place you’re reporting. “We all have our own personal interest but ultimately you just have to report the story.” ❶

David McNeill writes for the Irish Times and the Economist, and teaches media literacy at Hosei and Sophia Universities.


Friend or foe: Artificial Intelligence in the newsroom



AI may be replacing journalists in mundane jobs, but it could also be the savior of true journalism in an increasingly complex world.


By Maria Teresa Ronderos


Many large newsrooms and news agencies have for some time been relegating sports, weather, stock exchange movements and corporate performance stories to computers. One reason is that machines can be more rigorous and comprehensive than some reporters. Another is that, unlike many journalists who often single-source stories, software can import data from various sources, recognize trends and patterns and, using Natural Language Processing, put those trends into context, constructing sophisticated sentences with adjectives, metaphors and similes. A program, for example, can now convincingly report on crowd emotions in a tight soccer match.

These developments are why many in the journalistic profession fear that Artificial Intelligence will leave them without a job. But, if instead of fearing it, journalists embrace AI, it could become the savior of the trade – making it possible for them to better cover the increasingly complex, globalized and information-rich world we live in.

Intelligent machines can turbo-power journalists’ reporting, creativity and ability to engage audiences. Following predictable data patterns and programmed to “learn” variations in these patterns over time, an algorithm can help reporters arrange, sort and produce content at a speed never thought possible. It can systematize data to find a missing link in an investigative story. It can identify trends and spot the outlier among millions of data points that could be the beginnings of a great scoop. For example, a media outlet can continuously feed public procurement data into an algorithm which has the ability to cross-reference this data against companies sharing the same address. Perfecting this system could give reporters many clues as to where corruption may be happening.

Not only can intelligent computers analyze huge amounts of data to aid timely investigations, they can also help source and fact-check stories from the crowd to see if contributions are reliable. According to a 2017 report from Columbia Journalism School’s Tow Center, several media outlets in the U.S. are already using AI for fact checking. Reuters, for example, is using News Tracer to track breaking news on social media and verify the integrity of tweets. Serenata de Amor, a group of technology enthusiasts and journalists from Brazil, uses a robot named Rosie to track every reimbursement claimed by the country’s members of Congress and highlights the reasons that make some of the expenditures suspicious.

There are many other ways in which algorithms are helping journalists, from making rough cuts of videos, to recognizing voice patterns and identifying faces in a crowd. They can be programmed to chat with readers (chatbots) and answer queries. The tricky part is that this process cannot happen without a human journalist present who, with a goal in mind, asks relevant questions about the data. Reporters and editors need to learn fast how these systems operate and how they can use them to enhance their journalism.

Most journalists in the world do not have access to a team of programmers or data scientists to help design and build their projects. Collaboration is the answer. Small newsrooms and freelancers can make up for the lack of resources by teaming up with software developers to help build a more permanent collaboration. They can also become perceptive in spotting the many open-source search and analytics tools available.

Communication between journalists and techies is not a given. It needs a lot of learning from both sides and some trial and error. With ongoing technological development, journalists now have an ever-expanding toolkit in which to hold power to account. With this increased capacity to listen to their communities and identify their needs, it would be a tremendous waste not to try.

Ethical Challenges

The readers’ editor of the Guardian, Paul Chadwick, writing about the relationship between journalism and Artificial Intelligence, proposes a new clause for the newspaper’s code of ethics. “Software that ‘thinks’ is increasingly useful, but it does not necessarily gather or process information ethically,” he warns. “When using Artificial Intelligence to augment your journalism, consider its compatibility with the values of this code.”

Journalists have to be aware that algorithms may lie or mislead. They have been programmed by humans, who have biases, and logical patterns may lead to the wrong conclusions. This means journalists will always need to check results with their century-old verification techniques: cross-checking sources, comparing documents, doubting their findings.

Transparency is another must for journalism in this new era of machine intelligence.

“The biggest stumbling block for the entrance of AI into newsrooms is transparency. Transparency, a basic journalistic value, is often at odds with Artificial Intelligence, which usually works behind the scenes,” says Nausica Renner, digital editor of the Columbia Journalism Review.

Media should let the audience know what personal data they are collecting if they want to remain credible. Despite the powerful new toys allowing them to cater precisely to their audiences’ taste, editors should also strive to inform users about what they don’t want to know. The public interest is still the media’s business and the key to its survival.

By the same token, investigative reporters should do their best to explain how they are using algorithms to find patterns or process evidence for a story if they want to be different from the manipulators and demagogues who secretly collect data for use as a commercial or political weapon. Moreover, healthy journalism should continue to bring to life those silenced voices and intractable issues around which no one has systematically collected information or built data sets.

In the end, while it is true that AI enables journalism as never before, it is also true that this brings new challenges for learning and accountability. Without journalistic clarity, all this technology will not lead to a well-informed society. Without ethics, intelligent technology could herald journalism’s demise. Without clear purposes, transparent processes and the public interest as a compass, journalism will lose the credibility of people, no matter how many charts, bots and whistles you adorn it with. ❶

María Teresa Ronderos, from Semana, Colombia’s leading news magazine, recently served as director of the Open Society Foundation’s Program on Independent Journalism. This piece was originally published on the Medium page of the OSF program, and is reprinted with permission.



Automated journalism: producing stories from data. Initially it was used in reporting on sports and financial news. It can free journalists from routine tasks, improving efficiency and cost-cutting. AP uses Wordsmith software to turn financial data into stories. The Washington Post uses in house-developed technology Heliograf for reporting on sports events and electoral races.

Organizing workflow: tracking down breaking news, aggregating and organizing news using tags and links, moderating comments and using automated voice transcription. The New York Times uses the Perspective API tool developed by Jigsaw (Alphabet) to moderate readers’ comments. The Reuters Connect platform for journalists displays all Reuters content, including the archive, and content from media partners around the world in real time.

Tracking news on social media: analyzing real time and historical data, identifying influencers and engaging with audiences. AP uses Newswhip to monitor social media trends and increase engagement.

Engaging with audiences: Quartz Bot studio’s chatbot app allows users to text questions about news events, people, or places, and the app replies with content it believes is be relevant to them. Others, like the Guardian, include chatbots for Facebook Messenger. The BBC used bots to help cover the EU referendum. The AfriBOT project, one of the Innovate Africa grant winners, by the European Journalism Centre and The Source (Namibia and Zimbabwe), are developing an open source newsbot “to help African news organizations deliver personalized news and engage more effectively with audiences via messaging platforms.”

Automated fact-checking: allows journalists a speedy fact check of public statements or claims. Chequebot is used by Chequeado in Argentina; Full Fact UK and partners are developing an automated fact-checking engine that “will spot claims that have already been fact-checked in new places; and it will automatically detect and check new claims using Natural Language Processing and structured data.” The Duke Reporter’s Lab in the US developed the tool ClaimBuster to deliver politically meaningful claims to media and, in 2017, launched a hub for automated fact-checking projects. Factmata in the UK is also developing an automated fact-checking tool.

Analyzing large data bases: software crunches data and looks for patterns, changes or anything unusual. Reuters’ Lynx Insight goes through massive data sets and provides journalists with results and background information. OCCRP’s Crime Pattern Recognition uses technology that analyzes large databases of documents for similar corruption-related crimes and links between involved parties.

Image recognition: technology that recognises objects, places, human faces and even sentiment in images. The New York Times uses Amazon’s Rekognition API to identify members of congress in photos. Any user can test Google’s Vision API image recognition technology for free.

Video production: automatically creates scripts from news articles and produces narrated rough cuts of short video pieces from video footage. Wibbitz software is used by USA Today, Bloomberg and NBC. Researchers at Stanford University are developing an automated video editing tool.


None behind bars.A look back at four scandals that shook the Japanese auto industry – and their aftermath.

03 AP 125730369287


A sorry sight
Air-bag maker Takata Corp’s CEO Shigehisa Takada, center, Senior VP Hiroshi Shimizu, left, and CFO Yoichiro Nomura, bow at the start of a press conference about the company’s product defect and recall, June 2015.


By Roger Schreffler


It was one of those make-or-break moments – Feb. 24, 2010 at the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

Akio Toyoda, just eight months into his presidency at Toyota Motor Corp., sat before a congressional committee to answer questions about fatalities from an accelerator pedal malfunction in Toyota and Lexus cars sold in the U.S. He was treated, frankly, like a criminal. 

Dennis Kucinich, the congressman from Ohio with presidential aspirations, confronted him about whether he knowingly concealed design flaws which put people’s lives at risk. Since nearly 90 people had died, it couldn’t have been clearer where Kucinich was heading with his questioning.

Kucinich wasn’t the only one to ask “gotcha” questions. I counted at least eight members of the congressional committee in charge who took aim at Toyoda, mostly, not surprisingly, from states like Kucinich’s that didn’t have a Toyota plant. 

Scion of the automotive family that bears his name, Toyoda had a lot on the line. Apart from his presidency – it is customary in Japan for a CEO to take responsibility for a scandal by resigning – Toyota’s decades-old reputation for quality was being questioned. And without becoming overly hyperbolic, “Japan Inc.” was on trial since Toyota was and is the most celebrated corporation in Japan.

In the end, Toyota would pay a lot of money – more than $2 billion – to settle the multiple legal claims, including a criminal complaint by the U.S. Justice Department. 

Toyoda did all the right things in testifying before Congress: he bowed his head, expressed regret and accepted responsibility, all customary in Japan. He did everything except blame Toyota suppliers, including CTS Corp. the one based near Chicago that used the wrong synthetic rubber for the accelerator pedal.

CTS Corp. had used a polymer (a resin synthesized from petroleum) that under certain conditions – extremely hot and cold temperatures – expanded and didn’t revert to its previous form. In a very small number of cases, the pedal swelled and stuck after being engaged, sending the car forward at high speeds.

Toyota would eventually recall more than 7 million vehicles in the U.S. and another 2 million in other markets.


The second scandal involved the Ford Explorer, which under certain conditions – high-speed driving in hot climatic regions – rolled over after its tires blew out.

More than 270 fatalities and 800 injuries over nearly a decade starting in mid-1990s were linked to tread separation involving tires manufactured by Nashville-based Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. 

Ford blamed the tires. Bridgestone/Firestone blamed the Explorer’s design: specifically, that the automaker had added weight, as much as 450 kg, through the model’s various iterations yet didn’t change the specifications of the tires.

Bridgestone/Firestone eventually asked the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate the handling and control characteristics of the Explorer. NHTSA reported back in February 2002 that the evidence was inconclusive. A win for Ford? Yes and no.

First, Ford got lucky. More than half of accidents occurred in a handful of states in the southern region of the U.S. including the Southwest where daytime temperatures often average 40 degrees Celsius in August. Bridgestone/Firestone claimed that the tires should have been inflated at 30 psi. The owner’s manual said 26 psi was sufficient. They went back and forth and back and forth – after the fact.

Second, Ford had a perfect scapegoat in Firestone, the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co., and may have overplayed its hand. Twelve years before the 1990 introduction of the Explorer, which became the best-selling sport-utility vehicle in the U.S., Firestone was the subject of the largest recall in the auto industry’s history – 14.5 million tires – and was forced to pay a substantial fine, leaving the company financially weaker and eventually opening the door for Bridge-stone to purchase its global operations for a then-record $2.6 billion in 1988. Ford acted as if it was unaware that Bridge-stone (Tokyo) was calling the shots. 

This was all the more ironic considering that when Bridge-stone incorporated in 1931, Firestone challenged its name, accusing the Kurume-based company of trademark infringement. Firestone lost its challenge because the name “Bridgestone” was not a Firestone rip-off but a transliteration and inversion of the surname of its founder, Shojiro Ishibashi, or “stone bridge”.

Like Toyoda years later, Bridgestone/Firestone’s CEO Masatoshi Ono, the former head of Bridgestone’s Kurume plant, accepted a congressional invitation to express his “regrets.” Like Toyoda, he delivered his formal statement in English and responded to questions through an interpreter. Unlike the Toyota CEO, he made a disastrous impression and came across as inconsistent and evasive.

(Ono, by the way, spoke English. We spent half a day together in Kurume and met twice in Nashville. His English was good, but his attempt at Congress to accept responsibility but not blame was lost in translation to a hostile audience and skeptical public.)

Both Ford and Bridgestone lost money. Different sources put the losses at more than $1 billion each including recall costs. More interesting is that Bridgestone/Firestone severed its nearly 100-year supplier relationship with Ford in May 2001. Bridgestone also moved to close the subsidiary’s Decatur, IL, plant, which produced the tires and which was the center of the earlier recall in 1978. 

Ford increased the pressure level of the Explorer’s tires when it revamped the model in 2002.


The third scandal centered around an estimated 20-25 deaths that were attributed to faulty airbags supplied by Takata which, to quote Automotive News, “exploded, sending metal shards and other materials into the passenger compartment.”

Takata’s automotive customers were forced to recall more than 50 million airbag inflators in the U.S. alone. Those customers include a who’s who of the auto industry, from BMW and Mercedes in Europe to General Motors and Ford in the U.S. to Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Subaru in Japan.

The root of the problem was a management decision in the late 1990s to switch to ammonium nitrate as the propellant for airbag inflators. The material, which was reportedly cheaper than many other propellants used by suppliers, proved less stable.

Particularly damning, the auto supplier’s engineering division reportedly altered and concealed test results. Neither did management respond with a sense of urgency. In one of his messages to shareholders, Takata president Shigehisa Takada, another scion, focused on “warranty reserves” and “special losses” while not mentioning the victims.

When the end finally came, it came quickly. In February 2017, Takata entered into a plea agreement with the U.S. Justice Department whereby it would pay $1 billion in penalties including criminal penalties. The following June saw the supplier file for bankruptcy and the firm was delisted by the Tokyo Stock Exchange in July, 2017. 

Takata probably would have gone bankrupt sooner except that its main automotive customers couldn’t let it go under until they got a handle on the nature and extent of the problem and found new suppliers to replace it.


In our fourth scandal, no one died. No one was injured. No carcinogens were emitted into the atmosphere. It came to light when it was found that Mitsubishi Motors Corp. inflated mileage claims in its 660cc “kei” car business in Japan to meet new, more stringent regulations. 

And while no one went to jail, several in senior management resigned, including Mitsubishi president Tetsuro Aikawa, himself a scion, the son of former Mitsubishi Heavy Industries president and chairman Kentaro Aikawa.

Osamu Masuko, who was chairman and CEO at the time, did not resign. When we met shortly after the scandal came to light in April 2016, I asked him, partly as a conversation starter, “Why do you still have a job?”

Masuko revealed that it was because Carlos Ghosn, Nissan’s former CEO and chairman who is being held without bail at the Tokyo Detention House, made that a condition for Nissan to extend Mitsubishi a financial lifeline. (Nissan would invest ¥237 billion to acquire a controlling 34 percent stake.)

The revelations that Mitsubishi had inflated mileage-testing results came just as Masuko was preparing the next stage of the automaker’s restructuring – essentially, that it would be able to operate independently in an auto industry of goliaths like Toyota, Volkswagan and Renault-Nissan alliance.

In the second week of April 2016, just days before he was preparing to announce record earnings in the automaker’s then 99-year history, he was shown evidence that Mitsubishi’s engineering group had falsified fuel-economy testing data on more than 625,000 minicars sold in Japan, a majority of which were sold as Nissans.

Note that 16 years earlier, in July 2000, Mitsubishi and its truck-making subsidiary, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corp., were caught covering up defects dating back to the 1990s, triggering a police investigation, multiple recalls and eventually the arrest and conviction of several executives, all of whom received suspended sentences. A truck driver and pedestrian died.

The scandal was big news in Japan and the prelude to Masuko’s involvement with the company, first as a representative director from Mitsubishi Corp., one of the automaker’s major shareholders, and then as president and CEO.

Masuko, who had spent 11 years restructuring Mitsubishi – bringing it back from the brink after DaimlerChrysler AG withdrew its investment in 2005 – had to start over, which meant finding a partner. Now, with Mitsubishi’s benefactor in jail, who knows what comes next?


Although the incident tarnished Toyota’s brand, the damage from the sticky-pedal fiasco wasn’t long term. Toyoda, nine years later, has emerged as a strong chief executive.

Bridgestone replaced Ono as Bridgestone/Firestone CEO in October 2000. Nearly 20 years later, the company is the world’s number-one tire maker and exceedingly profitable. In fact, it is the most profitable automotive supplier in Japan, with an operating margin exceeding 10 percent.

Takata ceased to exist in April 2018. Shigehisa Takada resigned to make way for the sale of its assets to a competitor.

Mitsubishi, despite tensions between Nissan and Renault, is 80 percent back to record earnings. Masuko, who joined the automaker from Mitsubishi Corp. and turned 70 in February, could very well stay on for several more years. 

Carlos Ghosn was held in jail for 107 days before being released on March 6 on bail of ¥1 billion, after agreeing to stiff conditions, including what is virtually house arrest.   ❶

Roger Schreffler is a veteran business reporter who focuses on the auto sector, and a former FCCJ president.

Report on imprisoned journalists in 2018


By Elana Beiser


FRESH WAVES OF REPRESSION in China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia sustained the global crackdown on press freedom in 2018 for the third consecutive year. In its annual global survey, the Committee to Protect Journalists found at least 251 journalists in jail in relation to their work.
The majority of those imprisoned globally – 70 percent – are facing anti-state charges such as belonging to or aiding groups deemed by authorities as terrorist organizations. The number imprisoned on charges of false news rose to 28 globally, compared with nine just two years ago. Egypt jailed the most journalists on false news charges with 19, followed by Cameroon with four, Rwanda with three, and one each in China and Morocco.

The higher number of prisoners in China – with 47 behind bars – reflects the latest wave of persecution of the Uighur ethnic minority in the Xinjiang region. At least 10 journalists in China were detained without charge, all of them in Xinjiang, where the United Nations has accused Beijing of mass surveillance and detention of up to a million people without trial.

In the highest-profile example, Lu Guang, a freelance photographer and U.S. resident whose work on environmental and social issues in China has won awards from the World Press Photo Foundation and National Geographic, disappeared in Xinjiang in early November. Authorities later confirmed his arrest to his family, but have not disclosed his location or reason for detaining him.

MORE BROADLY, PRESIDENT XI Jinping has steadily increased his grip on power since taking office in 2013; this year, authorities stepped up regulation of technology that can bypass the country’s infamous firewall, issued lists of “approved” news outlets, and disbarred lawyers who represent jailed journalists, CPJ has found. 

In Egypt, at least 25 journalists are in prison as the administration of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has increasingly arrested journalists and added them to existing mass trials. Even after trial, Egyptian authorities go to transparently ridiculous lengths to keep critical journalists behind bars. 

Saudi Arabia – under intense scrutiny for the murder of exiled, critical Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate last October – stepped up its repression of journalists at home, with at least 16 journalists behind bars on Dec. 1. The prisoners include four female journalists who wrote about women’s rights in the kingdom, including the ban on women driving that was lifted in June.

Even as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been the fiercest critic of Saudi Arabia for the murder of Khashoggi, his government continued to jail more journalists than any other on the planet. CPJ found at least 68 journalists jailed for their work in Turkey, which is slightly lower than previous years. For the third consecutive year, every journalist imprisoned in Turkey is facing anti-state charges.

Those on the periphery of the journalistic profession are also vulnerable. CPJ’s list of jailed journalists does not include 13 staff from Gün Printing House, including its owner, a security guard, and several machine operators, who were jailed. Their “crime” is evidently printing Özgürlükçü Demokrasi, a pro-Kurdish daily paper that the government took over and eventually shut down.

IN THE UNITED STATES, where journalists encountered hostile rhetoric and fatal violence in 2018, no journalists were in jail on Dec. 1, although nine were arrested in the course of the year, according to the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, of which CPJ is a partner. Furthermore, over the past year and half, CPJ has documented or assisted in the cases of at least seven foreign journalists seeking asylum in the United States because of work-related threats at home, who were held in prolonged detention by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

CPJ defines journalists as people who cover the news or comment on public affairs in any media, including print, photographs, radio, television and online – and includes only those journalists it has confirmed have been imprisoned in relation to their work.

The list is a snapshot of those incarcerated at 12:01 a.m. on Dec. 1, 2018. Journalists remain on the list until the organization determines with reasonable certainty that they have been released or have died in custody. The prison census accounts only for journalists in government custody and does not include those who have disappeared or are held captive by non-state actors. 

Other findings from CPJ’s prison census include:

  • Ninety-eight percent of jailed journalists are locals imprisoned by their own governments.
  • 13 percent, or 33, of the jailed journalists are female, up from 8 percent last year.
  • Freelancers accounted for 30 percent of jailed journalists, in line with recent years.
  • Politics is the riskiest beat, followed by human rights. Those imprisoned for covering human rights including Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters reporters in Myanmar sentenced to seven years each for violating the Official Secrets Act because of their work uncovering military atrocities in Rakhine state. ❶

Elana Beiser is editorial director of the Committee to Protect Journalists.


New in the Library

13 Hersh

Reporter: A Memoir
Seymour M. Hersh
Allen Lane


13 Soseki

Sōseki : Modern Japan’s Greatest Novelist (Asia Perspectives: History, Society, and Culture) 
John Nathan 
Columbia University Press EBSCO*


A Shameful Life: (Ningen Shikkaku)
Osamu Dazai 
Mark Gibeau (trans.) 
Stone Bridge Press 

* EBSCO is an e-library system provider. Members are able to borrow books from anywhere via the FCCJ Library’s EBSCO account. 
The system works in a similar way to the lending system of the print-book library in that only one person can borrow these books at a time. But after due dates borrowers will not be able to open the book. Members will need their own ID and password to use the service.
Full guidance for using these books will be explained to Members.

Hacks & Flacks

Journalists, PR executives and others mingled at the FCCJ’s yearly bash on Jan. 25.

12 Hacks 1


Club President Peter Langan, Club GM Marcus Fishenden, House of Councillors member Mitsuko Ishii, journalist Bobbie van der List and Director-at-Large Dan Sloan smash the saké barrel provided by Born saké, whose owner Atsuhide Kato gave a speech (below).

12 Hacks 2

The event was well attended – as it always is.

12 Hacks 3

ALSOK Lion Dance Team gave a performance.

12 Hacks 4

Sterling Content’s Kathryn Wortley, Telegraph correspondent Julian Ryall and Hiroshi Iki, senior marketing manager, KEF Japan Inc.

12 Hacks 5

The Club’s Special Projects Committee chair Haruko Watanabe, soprano Mayumi Torikoshi and Meiko Ninomiya.

12 Hacks 6

ARD German Radio’s Kathrin Erdmann, freelance journalist Jake Adelstein, 
and the Washington Post’s Simon Denyer.

12 Hacks 7

ORIX Corp’s communications assistant manager Yuka Kanaoka and freelance writer William Sposato.

12 Hacks 8

The Times correspondent Richard Lloyd Parry, Prothom Alo’s Monzurul Huq and freelancer Asger Røjle Christensen.

12 Hacks 9


Join the film committee. . .



10 Film 1


. . . on Wed., Feb. 6 at 6:45 pm for the omnibus feature 21st Century Girl, created by 15 of Japan’s emerging female directors. These self-described “defiant films dedicated to girls in the 21st century” approach the subject of sexuality and gender through a dizzying range of styles, visions, themes and genres. The eight-minute shorts are beautifully shot, with top-notch production and costume design, and star some of Japan’s most popular actresses, including Kaho Minami, Ai Hashimoto, Shizuka Ishibashi, Kiki Sugino, Sairi Itoh and Serena Motola. Five of the directors, Aya Igashi, Ayaka Kato, Risa Takeuchi, Yuka Yasukawa and the producer-director behind the project, U-ki Yamato, will join us for the Q&A session after the screening. (Japan, 2018; 117 minutes; in Japanese with English subtitles.)
Karen Severns



Standing Rock

Photography by Nob Toshi Mizushima


THE DAKOTA ACCESS PIPELINE is a 1,172-mile-long underground oil pipeline project in the U.S. that crosses the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. A protest movement began in early 2016 by Standing Rock Sioux elders with concerns about the environmental impact to land sacred to Native Americans and the polluting of the Missouri River and Lake Oahe, which is a reservoir for the Standing Rock Reservation.
They started a camp as a center for cultural preservation and spiritual resistance to the pipeline. After some protesters were arrested, a huge number of protesters – veterans, hippies, environmental groups and other volunteers – joined the camp. The next year, under the Trump administration, law enforcement officials chased off the protesters and destroyed the camps. The pipeline was completed soon after and began transporting oil in April 2017. ❶

Nob Toshi Mizushima 
was born in Tokyo but moved to New York in the early 1990s. After dropping out of the International Center of Photography’s school in 2007, he began work as a freelance journalist. Based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, his interests are ethnic, environmental, energy and economic issues.

09 Exhibition 1

09 Exhibition 2

09 Exhibition 3

09 Exhibition 4

09 Exhibition 5

Last month in photos


08 Last Month 1

High skill
Members of the Edo Firemanship Preservation Associa tion perform ladder stunt as part of Tokyo’s Fire department’s New Year review
by Yoshikazu Tsuno


08 Last Month 2

A throwaway idea
Watching a trash crane from the window of the Gomi-Pit Bar in Tokyo. The temporary bar is inside the facilities of Musashino Clean Center and aims to raise awareness of environmental and waste disposal issues
by Rodrigo Reyes Marin


08 Last Month 3

A barrier too far
Landfill work off the Henoko district of Nago, Okinawa, for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Corps Futenma station. The relocation is the subject of a referendum this month.
by Richard Atrero de Guzman/Nur Photo


Want people to read your investigation? Tell a good story.

An experienced journalist/editor shares tips on writing an investigative report that will have an impact on readers


By Olga Simanovych


GREAT INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING OFTEN turns into difficult, hard-to-read articles. At best, these stories are boring; at worst, they are impossible to understand. Sadly, they end up having little or no impact, meaning months of difficult investigative work has been largely wasted.

It’s not difficult to work out whether your story is understandable or not: if your grandmother can’t grasp it, you have failed. And complex subject matter is no excuse. While writers like to blame readers for not understanding or caring about their work, lack of clarity is always the writer’s (and their editor’s) fault. One of the keys to good journalism is to make the important interesting, and the solution is better storytelling. You must tell stories in a way that helps impose order on messy realities and inspires empathy in your readers.

At this summer’s annual investigative journalism festival in Kiev, Ilya Lozovsky, managing editor of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, shared some tips to help investigative journalists do just that. Here are his top 12 tips on how to craft a compelling story:

1. Explain your story in one sentence.
You have to figure out what your story is before you start writing. Can you convey its essence in a tweet? If not, you probably aren’t ready to write. You might need additional reporting. Work backward in time. Ask yourself: What caused the event you are reporting on to happen? What were the factors in the environment – legislative, social, political – that made the event possible? Who – and how – were the key people involved?

2. Select facts that matter.
You have probably uncovered thousands of facts in your research. But you can’t throw them all at the reader, and expect them to absorb them all. When we tell our friends something that happened to us, we don’t just recite every single fact. We pick the most relevant ones, tell them in order and explain what they mean. One of the most important parts of storytelling is being selective – each fact needs to be there for a reason, and you have to explain that reason to your audience. It’s not a failure to use only 5 percent of what you found. 

Remember to always think from the perspective of the reader: Is this sentence helping them better understand the story? Does it advance the story? Also, try limiting names and numbers to no more than two per paragraph so you don’t bog down or confuse your reader.

3. Choose the sequence of your reporting.
A story is a highly selective sequence of relevant events that have significance for your reader; all stories should have a clear beginning, middle and an end. 

If you’re lucky, your story will be obvious. It will feel like it is writing itself. But most of the time, it’s not that simple. You have a whole lot of facts, but facts themselves do not make a story – and if you write that way, you’ll just end up with a list of facts that most people will never read.

Chronological order is almost always the best way to tell a complex investigative story. Some stories may be told in other ways, but only in special circumstances.

4. Give readers a reason to empathize.
Readers need to understand why they should care. Sometimes your story will have obvious victims, but many times it won’t. You need to explain who has been hurt and how. 

In investigative reporting, it’s often the citizens or the country’s budget which are the victims. But it can be more nebulous. Is it your country’s reputation? Democratic norms and institutions? Societal trust? 

When it is money that is lost or stolen, you’ll need to explain what that amount means. Your grandmother doesn’t know how much a billion is, because she has never seen that much money. You need to explain it in a way she’ll understand. How many hospitals can be built with that amount of money? Can you compare the amount to the average annual salary of a teacher?

5. Highlight and introduce characters.
Characters don’t have to be people – places or things can be characters, too! – but they usually are people in investigative reporting. Remember, every character mentioned must be introduced, and their motivations and involvement in the story has to be explained. 

Who are they? And why are they in the story?

Be sure to write “there he met James Smith, a banker from New York,” and not just, “there he met James Smith.”

07 Investigation Guide

6. Show us the map first, then take us on the journey.
Signposts signal where the story will go. Here’s how a typical story can be set up:

• The “lede” is what sets up the story and takes the reader in.
• The “nut graf” shows the reader where you’re going. This is where you tell the reader what you’re going to tell them; your single sentence that explains your story comes in handy here. The lede and the nut graph make up the beginning of your story.
• The body of the piece – the middle 
– is where you explain your story. This 
is usually broken up into several sections where you make your key points and outline the facts that back-up your 
nut graph.
• In your ending, you tell them what you just told them, summing it all up.

7. No surprises!
Some journalists like to “reveal” surprises in the second half of the story. This violates the rule of “guiding the reader.” Assume most readers won’t get there!

When new elements are introduced, their connection to previous elements should be clear. Is it the same criminal case or a different one? If you have written “charged three times with bribery” at the beginning of the story and you mention “arrested for bribery” again later, make it clear whether it’s one of the three.

8. Color your story.
Show how something looked. Show how someone acted. Write about smells, colors and sounds. Make people and places come alive. While this may appear to violate the rule about “no extra details,” these are, in fact, serving a purpose. Storytelling is nothing without story.

9. Involve an expert.
Get independent specialists to offer comments on the subject of your story. It can assist with explaining the complex; oftentimes experts can say things you can’t. For example, after describing a complex set of transactions, it’s great to have a specialist say: “This is obviously a bribe,” especially if they can explain why.

10. Use simple language.

• Go for concrete language over abstract.
• Avoid jargon.
• Active voice is better than passive voice.
• Use lots of verbs and nouns, and less adjectives. Avoid adverbs!
• Variation: Mix long sentences with short ones.

11. Be creative with supplementing the text in order to avoid interrupting the narrative.

• Charts and graphs
• Infographics
• Boxes
• Sidebars

12. Don’t pay too much attention to the end of your story.
How do you end a story? The truth is, it doesn’t matter as much as you think it does. On longer reads, most people won’t read to the end; 80 percent of your writing effort should go towards the top 20 percent of the story. Really. As an editor, if I had a bad draft and only an hour before publication, I would just focus on the lede and nut graf.

And here’s some bonus tips from an editor’s perspective:
• Take a break before sitting down to write. Always write with fresh eyes.
• “Write drunk. Edit sober.”
• Read out loud – do you stumble over anything? Fix those awkward places.
• Editors are your friends. They will see things you won’t. ❶

Olga Simanovych is the Russian-language editor of the Global Investigative Journalism Network. She has worked as a screenwriter, media trainer, managing editor, TV news reporter for Vikna-Novyny and has participated in international investigations. This article originally appeared on the GIJN website and is used with permission.

Page 6 of 7



Go to top