News reporters do most of their training on the job. Actual experience helps them become better capable of producing high quality news reports. Nothing has changed concerning this hard-and-fast rule that defines journalism. Yet the environment that surrounds the news media has undergone sweeping changes.
|New staff reporters attempt to send in photographs taken on the streets using their digital cameras and personal computers. (April 2007, Ginza district, Tokyo)|
|An editor from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Rocky Mountain News from Denver, Colorado, gives an account of how the story was covered. Behind him is the award winning photograph. (At a symposium held at the Yurakucho Asahi Hall in Tokyo in June 2007)
The spread of information technology has permeated every corner of our society. Japan’s criminal courts are planning to introduce a lay judge system, in which members of the public will deliberate on cases alongside judges. The ease of capital flowing across international borders has opened doors to a new era - even major corporations are now up for purchase and sale. Furthermore, the Internet has given rise to many new types of media.
In the face of such change, the Institute of Journalism was started in October 2006.
As a member of the press and Japan’s foremost organ of public opinion, the mission of The Asahi Shimbun is to enhance the skills and performance of our news reporters and, by doing so, to further strengthen the foundation of Japan’s journalism. The Institute of Journalism is an organization that makes use of the accumulated know-how and traditions garnered by The Asahi Shimbun throughout its 130-year history, and functions as a central core in creating a news media that supports changing times.
One of the major pillars of the Institute is the systematic education system used to train Asahi staff reporters. Various divisions including the Editorial Division lend their cooperation and support to this end.
Newly hired staff reporters will undergo initial training that is aimed at “nurturing reporters who can think on their feet.” In the past, new staff reporters, upon undergoing a short-term training session in Tokyo Head Office, were immediately dispatched to various general bureaus and bureaus across the nation, where they would receive on-the-job training (OJT). They would learn the ropes, starting with the ABCs of news gathering, under their respective general bureau chiefs, desk editors and senior staff reporters. Our journalistic training relied largely on traditional OJT techniques.
However, journalists who stand at the forefront of news gathering must be armored with the latest knowledge and skills. How should we conduct news gathering while being fully aware of protecting human rights? How do we go about tackling the market economy? How can the digital camera be best used in enhancing news reports?
It is our belief that: “News reporters don’t grow up by themselves. We need to nurture them by providing appropriate educational training.”
From that perspective, we drew up a curriculum covering the following three stages:
1. New staff members receive initial journalistic training where they learn the fundamental activities of news reporting, ethics relating to news gathering and how to write an article.
2. A follow up training session is given after six months, where the trainees undergo page make-up training, discuss media regulation and counter arguments, together with theories of journalism in news reporting.
3. After a year, the news reporter will undergo a final training session to complete the basic training course.
During an extensive training session given in April 2007, reporters experienced news gathering and article writing by visiting areas struck by earthquakes and regions devastated by pollution.
There is further training offered for reporters who are in their third year aimed at “nurturing reporters who are not dependent on press clubs.” The sessions are based on seminars where reporters study the basics of investigative reporting and how to put into effect their original viewpoints in reporting the news, as well as learning how they should view politics, the government and society.
Apart from these training courses, the Institute offers periodical lectures on various topics ranging from the latest trends in the media world and what is taking place in relation to culture, the environment, religion, war and conflicts. They are all delivered from a global viewpoint. Training is offered for senior news reporters working at our general bureaus, as required.
We believe that only truly professional journalists who have their own bank of knowledge and are equipped with news gathering skills can produce newspaper pages that are truly readable and worthy of our readers’ trust.
Another major role of the Institute is to constantly monitor and verify the ethics of reporters and the way news gathering activities are conducted. The findings are reflected in training for further reinforcement.
In addition to such in-house training, the Institute also opens its door to students and general readers from outside the company. For example, it hosts seminars for would-be journalists, undergraduate and graduate students seeking careers in news and media.
In fiscal 2007, the Institute held a two-week journalism course for about 20 students who were mainly from Tokyo and the surrounding area and who were on their summer breaks. The students traded opinions with lecturers from The Asahi Shimbun and outside, touching on various themes, including the problems journalism now face and how news gathering should be conducted. The students went out on location to experience news gathering.
In the future, the Institute is planning to offer similar journalism courses for graduates who are already part of the workforce.
As a way to heighten interest in newspaper journalism, and invite promising young talent to become journalists, The Asahi Shimbun has made donations to various colleges and university groups that have established various endowed and cooperative courses, including the “Theory of Media Practice” and the “Journalism Comprehensive Course.” The company is also promoting international cooperation, offering research grants to China’s Tsinghua University.
The Institute of Journalism organizes a variety of symposiums and forums that address journalism - which is another key responsibility. Keeping in spirit with the Asahi slogan “Journalistic Proclamation,” the Institute tries to offer quality events with carefully chosen themes inviting top lecturers.
Since its inception in 2006, the Institute has hosted a panel discussion targeting youth, an international forum with the managing editor of New York Times, our partner newspaper, and a symposium inviting an editor and cameraman from a local newspaper in Colorado, U.S.A., that has managed to win three Pulitzer Awards in the past six years. These events were all well received by packed audiences.
The “AIR21” is a bulletin issued by the Institute of Journalism covering topics related to diversified media, including newspaper, television and the Internet, in Japan and overseas, and offering reports and analyses. It has offered detailed coverage on journalist education, and public opinion surveys.
Universities are now reviving interest in newspaper research and media research. Cooperating with specialists in these fields and conducting collaborative research programs is another important theme that should be pursued.
The Asahi Shimbun Asia Network (AAN) was established in 1998 to promote exchanges of people and information in Asia. AAN was integrated with the Institute of Journalism, to mark its tenth year, and the outline of its work was redefined. In fiscal 2007, the “Asahi Asia Fellows” program was established. The core group consists of about 50 influential scholars, researchers and foreign diplomacy specialists from Japan and overseas. These researchers from various fields gather at AAN fellows’ forums that are held as needed, to participate in spirited multilateral debates covering various issues that Japan and Asian countries now face.
|AAN guest researcher Lee Jiyeon from South Korea interviews a victim of the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake in May 2007.|
The network also has cooperative ties with overseas think tanks and research institutes, including the Dong-A Ilbo newspaper’s Institute 21 for Peace Studies in Seoul and the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations in Beijing. The network hosts international symposiums every year. It also invites young reporters from major Asian newspapers and researchers to help them advance their research and reporting activities.