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Rising Sun*
04-19-2009, 08:54 AM
An interesting exercise by a major Japanese newspaper, which has undertaken other exercises looking back at the war from various Japanese perspectives.

I'm not aware of similar self-examination by an Allied newspaper about its wartime conduct which, undoubtedly, would have been as supportive of Allied forces and aims as was Japan's press of its own forces and aims.


'SHINBUN TO SENSO' (NEWSPAPERS AND THE WAR): Journalists turn to older colleagues to learn the truth of wartime history


BY KEN FUJIMORI, SENIOR STAFF WRITER
2008/10/16


Why did The Asahi Shimbun fail to stop a war, but instead end up lending its hand in supporting the war effort?

That question became the motive for our series "Shinbun to Senso" (Newspapers and the war). The series of 243 articles ran over a period of a year up until March this year, not including other related special reports.

Our team of about 20 staff writers agreed to put aside prejudices to seek the truth, and to commit ourselves to "investigative reporting in the field of history."

The project involved long hours of interviews with former staff writers who shared their personal experiences and mind-sets during the war, reading old journals from the war era, and perusing mountains of resources obtained from inside and outside the company.

Despite their advanced age, the former staff writers were all cooperative. Three soon passed away after sharing precious accounts with their younger colleagues.

Through our work, we were able to uncover previously unknown facts. We learned that the basement of the Asahi Shimbun Chubu Sokyoku (general bureau), or the present-day Nagoya Head Office, served as a munitions factory better known as "Gokoku Dai 4476 Kojo" (Guardian of the nation No. 4476 factory).

Or the fact that former Asahi staff writer Kusuzo Chihara was arrested, and later died in prison, for distributing documents criticizing the general of the Imperial Army and wartime Prime Minister Hideki Tojo.

The series was bestowed with the Japan Congress of Journalists JCJ Award and Shimbun Roren (newspaper workers union) journalists' grand prize. However, I believe that our endeavor of self-examination has just begun.

One of the reasons The Asahi Shimbun switched course and sided with the military following the Manchurian Incident was because it was fearful of alienating itself from a public supportive of the military.

Can we safely say that newspapers, or the wider media, have changed in nature from those times?

I believe that we still have much homework to do. http://www.asahi.com/english/Herald-asahi/TKY200810160055.html