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Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2010
Standing against the ebb tide
As newspapers promote themselves during Newspaper Week (Oct. 15 to 21), they face a shrinking readership. They must make strenuous efforts to make their pages attractive to people while faithfully carrying out their duty of digging for the truth and contributing to people's right to know.
Japan's dwindling population and hard economic conditions, such as high unemployment and the spread of low-income temporary jobs, are causing the country's newspaper readership to decline. Ominous to the newspaper industry is the fact that many young people do not read newspapers. They probably think that they get enough information from the Internet.
In this age of rapidly changing tastes and interests, newspapers need to have sensitive tentacles to feel what people want. They must provide information readers feel like reading and present it in an attractive way. Unless newspapers succeed in producing products that convince people they are indispensable, they will have no alternative but to drop out of competition with other information providers.
Sources that provide information are multiplying as exemplified by the spread of blogs and social networking services. Newspapers must consider ways to secure their position in this situation in which people are receiving a wide variety of information form a wide range of sources.
In such an environment, people must receive reliable and high-quality information. Newspapers can provide such information if they stick to journalistic ethics and properly train reporters. Even serious newspapers cannot avoid providing, to some extent, information that is entertaining. But they must prove that serious articles based on solid reporting and research are interesting and intellectually satisfying.
Newspapers have not been free from a frame of mind that has been established under long-standing institutional traditions, including the selection of topics to be covered and the assignment of reporters. Newspapers must stay sharp at developing new ideas and reporting on that which is not only interesting but also crucial to people's lives.