Dear Members,

This time it is not the Club politics or the move, nor the declining media business. It is a tiny microscopic thing called “coronavirus” that poses a threatening challenge to the FCCJ and even to the whole planet.

With no sign on the horizon of a halt to the increasing number of infections, the world is facing a challenge of existence, and I quote here Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Social distancing and cancellations of events have become the name of the game, and almost everybody outside the medical and essential sectors of society were asked to stay home. The call reached the FCCJ to join the telework trend and to shut down temporarily. But I wondered if the media business would survive if journalists followed the trend of reporting from home.

At any rate, in response, the Board has instructed the management to downsize the operation and set up sanitation rules, and informed the membership about it. In fact, the management of the Club said they don’t think the Club should shut down at the moment. Stricter measures have been taken, including letting some staff work from home, and arranging press events without staff. The outsourcing company also said it will be taking its own measures while respecting the board decision.

I have contacted members in person and online, and the majority supported downsizing the operations rather than shutting down the Club.

The board felt also that the FPIJ depends on the Club for news gathering and reporting.

All in all, I believe the media has its role in fighting coronavirus and our FCCJ is the hub for that. So it’s a matter of trying to preserve a balance of physical and psychological health, professional, and financial issues. It is a fine and often difficult line to walk.

Common sense dictates that we must take all reasonable precautions such as banning large gatherings, promoting personal hygiene, encouraging members to wear face masks, keeping track of visitors, etc.

The FCCJ’s current premises are spacious and, given the reduced number of members coming to the Club recently, we have achieved social distancing without limiting numbers.

The psychological benefits of keeping the Club functioning were apparent during the General Membership Meeting held on March 27 when we approved the 2020 budget and business plan, and elected a new Board Member to replace a resigning Board Member. There was a lively and friendly discussion among those who attended, who seemed happy to have the opportunity for social contact.

When I launched the first of a new series of presidential forums a few days earlier, the event was quite well attended and provoked a lively debate between the speaker and the audience. I also applaud the measures taken by the Professional Activities Committee to ensure that we can continue to hold larger events without risking a breach of social distancing requirements. The PAC cochairs said that the press conferences are very important function not only for FCCJ but for Japan as a whole.

Our response in keeping workroom and library facilities open (without risking the health of the staff) also appear to be appreciated by those who make regular use of these facilities.

As far as financial factors are concerned, the FCCJ badly needs to continue generating revenue streams during the crisis and we are doing our best to strike a balance in this area too. Above all, a club needs to be about preserving social and professional ties among its members, and I firmly believe that we can best do this by keeping our doors open as much as possible to the membership while shutting out the menace of coronavirus.

And here is some good news: in February, we gained four new members.

I take this chance to thank all of the dedicated FCCJ staff, the Board and committee chairs and members and the whole membership for supporting the FCCJ so that we can see at the end of the dark tunnel the glowing flame of the Olympic Torch brightening the Tokyo sky next year.

- Khaldon Azhari