I love the Mainichi Shimbun online. Sort of. Having record of both the English and Japanese language versions of the same articles from the same publication resting side-by-side, only a hotlink away, the site serves as a rather interesting window into how news is tailored to its audience.
Looking at the publication, it seems that there is a fine line between news and entertainment—and the Mainichi’s leaning to the latter undoubtedly boosts their reading figures, particularly on the English site. As Ms Kitanaka has previously noted content is strategically selected and the writing style is self-consciously titillating. This applies to both the Japanese and the English versions but interestingly, there are inconsistencies between the two.
Opening up the English homepage the first thing I noticed was the startling number of articles related to sex crimes (click here for an example), none of which were related to the US military rape case that has been pummeling the headlines as of late. These were all crimes committed by Japanese people, primarily against young females. Clicking on any of the articles not only pulls up the article in question but an onslaught of similar stories under the “related articles.” You can follow these stories to the end of the earth. Yet when I checked out the Japanese versions of these same articles, if they even existed, the number of “related articles” was always significantly less, or entirely nonexistent.
Is it presumed that the Japanese audience doesn’t care to hear about these things? Does everyone know it’s happening and therefore it’s assumed that these stories don’t need to be told? God forbid readers actually have to stare problems in the face day in and day out to the point where they are forced to think critically about their contributing factors on a deeper level. Or、 is it simply that the English editors fall back on the sensationalist tendencies of the media in their home countries?
Either way, I don’t care for the Mainichi Shimbun as much as I first stated. I lied. In fact, I find it rather difficult to respect a publication that blatantly reports with such extreme discrepancy across its content. But I am glad that it exists and it is entertaining. It’s also an interesting window into the world of journalism and the Janus-faced duality of allegedly bilingual reporting.
By Justin Potts
Anna Kitanaka is away
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