Foreign correspondents in other global capitals are to be envied. Although the world’s newspaper readers take keen interest in the political doings of Athens, Beijing and Cairo, not even the Japanese care much about what goes on in Nagatacho. So barring the occasional disaster and bizarre antics of the natives, all that FCCJ hacks have to write home about is business: the fluctuating fortunes of Japan’s global corporations. And heaven knows the stories don’t write themselves.

In English, when left to their own devices, Japanese companies tend to sound like the Klingon aliens in Star Trek: “We come from a planet of abundant greenery and four unique seasons wishing to deepen relations with your civilization.”

This makes it a stiff challenge just to decipher the average Japanese press release to say nothing of rendering the kind of copy that editors overseas expect, replete with pithy quotes and apples to apples stats. Nor does the job get any easier when our hacks contact the relevant flacks for clarification. All too often, those on the other end of the phone (when they even bother to answer) don’t understand how foreign media differ from the domestic “mass comi” with its kisha clubs, its kowtowing to major advertisers and its penchant for running platitudes verbatim.

In a composite nut shell, this is the moan that emanates from FCCJ journalists when asked what they think of Japan’s PR departments and agencies. And it’s one reason why the FCCJ’s annual Hacks-n-Flacks shinnenkai this year on Friday January 25th deserves to be more than a booze fueled baseball card swap meet. We need to talk.

Beyond the “dark side” meme, foreign correspondents and the PR community share symbiotic interests not a common interest but two sides of the same coin. Journalists need PR to tell more coherent and transparent stories. PR needs journalists to tell their take on the stories far and wide, critically but fairly.

So where would PRs be if Japan based foreign correspondents became extinct? And what would they do without the FCCJ as a single point of contact with the global media? Given a steady dwindling of the species, a gradual shift to China, and an uncertain future for the Club, these are not idle questions.

In fact, these are questions PR professionals might well ponder as they attend or consider whether to attend Hacks-n-Flacks.

How might the PR community support the continued existence of foreign correspondents and their Club in Japan? Without any illusions that journalistic affection can be bought, Associate Membership can be seen as a must. Club facilities can be used frequently to entertain guests and as a venue for corporate events. And wait for it… because here comes the pitch.

Advertising in No.1 Shimbun is not only an excellent, affordable way for any PR entity to demonstrate its support for the Club, our advertisers (bless them) see this magazine as a useful way to get key messages across to working journalists here plus FCCJ alumni in senior editorial positions around the world. And it’s arguably more effective than press releases that get deleted with a keystroke. Still, it’s a tough proposition for PR people to get their heads around: display advertising is a Marketing thing, not PR. Ask us for details.

But enough spin from this quarter. The bottom line is that all hacks and all flacks should turn out for what is surely Tokyo’s most important media/PR networking event of the year. And flacks, feel free to fire back.

John R. Harris is a speechwriter and freelance journalist based in Onjuku on Chiba’s Pacific coast.