From Newsprint to New Media: The Evolving Role of Nikkei Newspapers

I had the pleasure in April of giving a presentation, “From Newsprint to New Media: The Evolving Role of Nikkei Newspaper,” followed by a panel which I moderated, looking at the vibrant history of Japanese community newspapers. The program, which was organized by Discover Nikkei, was held at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. Discover Nikkei is a project of JANM, and hosts its own very cool website that showcases the Nikkei experience from people of Japanese descent all over the world.

Like the newspaper industry in general across the U.S., publications that serve Japanese communities — both Japanese-speaking and English-speaking Japanese Americans — have suffered from tough economic times, falling advertising dollars and declining readership. But also like the rest of the industry, Nikkei newspapers are evolving to suit the needs of the future.

That’s the framework I wanted to establish in my presentation, which I’ve embedded above. I followed my talk with brief introductions by four panelists describing their history and various current approaches to Nikkei media, and then a panel discussion about what’s in store for the future. I’ve embedded videos of the entire program below, which was shot, edited and assembled by the Discover Nikkei staff as an album of video clips on this page.
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It’s not just P.C.: “Geronimo” was a poor choice for a codename for the bin Laden mission

Geronimo, not Osama bin LadenThe message to everyone waiting with bated breath in the White House situation room was terse and to the point: “Geronimo-E KIA”: “Geronimo,” the Enemy, Killed in Action. Really? Osama bin Laden was codenamed “Geronimo?” Even if, as the White House later clarified, that “Geronimo” was the codename for the mission, not the target, the choice is ripe with symbolism that reeks of mid-18th century American imperialism and European American racial privilege.

I know I’m going to hear from the folks who screech at the thought of political correctness overtaking American culture and spoiling pop references that used to be commonly used but now can be offensive. I’m going to hear from people who thought I didn’t have a sense of humor when I got angry that Shaquille O’Neal, or Adam Carolla, or Rosie O’Donnell, or Rush Limbaugh pull out the “ching-chong” routine to mock Asians. I’m going to hear from people who think I’m over-sensitive about “yellowface” in Hollywood (the long and still-going history of white actors playing Asian parts) and the use of Asian stereotypes. I’m going to hear from people who defend racially offensive statements or behavior as OK because it wasn’t “meant” to offend — therefore leading to the non-apology apology that blames those who are offended for taking it wrong.

The fact is, if something is offensive to someone, it’s offensive. Period. It’s not about the motivation, or the intent. It’s about the impact.

And the impact of the U.S. military’s use of “Geronimo” — either as the codename for Osama bib Laden, or the codename of the mission that took bin Laden out — is definitely negative in the Native American community.
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Some people think Japan’s earthquake and tsunami are payback for Pearl Harbor? Really?

Japan tsunami

I was shocked, saddened and depressed when I learned that there are people in the United States who think that the Tohoku Kanto Earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which has caused enormous damage and casualties that will surely top 10,000, is some sort of karmic payback for Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. Really? Seriously?

Yes, unfortunately. Here’s just a sampling of some updates and comments from Facebook that rant about Pearl Harbor and the tsunami, and how the U.S shouldn’t send any aid to Japan:

Who bombed Pearl Harbor? Karmas a bitch.

Do I feel bad for japan? Two words….pearl harbor

Dear Japan, it’s not nice to be snuck up on by something you can’t do anything about, is it? Sincerely, Pearl Harbor.

screw japan they got what they dederve. any remember pearl horbor I do .they killed thousands of anericans and would do it again. kill em all let god sort emm out.

Now the people in japan know how we felt during pearl harbor when they made are man abd women float in the ocean…

Its god way of sayng theres too many chinese here imma take u out lol

If they didn’t bomb pearl harbor this wouldn’t have happened. Gods way of tell japanese people there gay

all yall remember pearl harbor when yall give money to japan

OMG!!! Im so sick of people “praying for Japan” :we should help” i don’t know wha happened in yall brain but they’re the same people that bombed Pearl Harbor! get it together mane, I have no sympathy for em, Tragic stuff happen every single day!!

Obama To Offer Assistance To Earthquake.. We have starving people in this country, people with housing /medical needs and other life substaining essentials yet USA runs to the rescue, who’s going to rescue us the overinflated porices does any 1 remember “PEARL HARBOR”??? AGAIN TAX PAYERS WILL END UP PAYING AT THE END OF THE DAY

I’m all for free speech and these people have a right to say what they think, even if it’s ignorant, misinformed and downright hateful. But these thoughts are worrisome because they seem so cavalier, so easy for these people to express.
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Rep. King’s Muslim radicalization hearings eerily echo the era of Japanese American internment

Anti-Japanese 1942 article from Washington PostHere’s a post worth reading and thinking about by Eric Muller at Faculty Lounge, “Representative King’s Investigation and the Ghost of Hearings Past” that notes that NY Rep. Peter King’s hearings on the radicalization of Muslims echoes the experience of history during World War II.

Muller points out the race-based hysteria at the start of World War II, when false reports about Japanese Americans’ involvement in espionage and sabotage against the United States led to an atmosphere of hatred for an entire group of people, and warns that we should be careful not to do the same thing today. Those reports weren’t just propagated by the West Coast Hearst newspapers that had been anti-Japanese (and anti-Chinese) for decades, with their drumbeat of “Yellow Peril” stories.

Even the Washington Post (shown here) reported the lies. (For the record no case of espionage or sabotage during the war by anyone of Japanese descent in the US was proven).

So, kudos to the Washington Post of today for “Rep. Peter King’s Muslim hearings: A key moment in an angry conversation” which looks at how the discussion of Muslims might be affected for the worse by King’s hearings.

We’ve seen other examples of how hatred can be easily stoked by leaders who fan the flames of fear in the name of patriotism: Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee hearings blacklisted suspected Communists including government officials and Hollywood celebrities in a gleeful witch hunt.

Let’s not make the same mistake again. I assume King is holding these hearings out of a genuine, if mistaken, patriotism. But I hope these hearings don’t simply lead to a notching up of the often ignorant extreme ideas some Americans have about Muslims (they’re not all terrorists, people) and a blanket indictment of all Muslim Americans.

(Thanks to Densho for the heads-up.)
(Cross-posted from my Posterous blog)

Not enough people know about Day of Remembrance

Site of the Heart Mountain Internment Camp in Wyoming

Maria Hinojosa, a very respected journalist for NPR and PBS who’s currently working on a Frontline documentary about the detention camps holding Latin Americans suspected of being illegal immigrants, visited the University of Colorado this week. She gave a speech Tuesday night but that day she had a casual free lunch discussion with students from the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She described the film she’s working on, and some of the heartbreaking stories of families torn apart and the shame and embarrassment the detainees face.

Her description conjured up for me how Japanese American families must have felt in 1942 as they were being rounded up and sent to internment camps in desolate parts of the Western United States during World War II, including Heart Mountain in Wyoming, shown above with a still-standing tarpaper-covered barrack.

I asked her, since February 19 is the annual Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans, if she found it especially ironic that she’s working on this documentary and giving a speech this week.

Hinojosa looked at me, stunned. She clearly knew about Japanese American internment. But she had no idea there was such as thing as Day of Remembrance for Japanese Americans.
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