A scandal in which two newspapers (Sankei Shimbun and Chiba Nippo) paid temp workers and Sankei-affiliated deliverypersons to attend events promoting the new lay judge system to be introduced from 2009 has inspired this latest use of my favorite journalistic cliche:
Court slams payments to public forum attendees
Kyodo NewsTwo newspaper publishers acted inappropriately when they paid participants to take part in public forums intended to popularize the lay judge system, the Supreme Court said Monday.
The Osaka headquarters of the Sankei Shimbun and Chiba Nippo, a local newspaper in Chiba Prefecture, have acknowledged paying 3,000 yen to 5,000 yen to some participants at the events, which they cosponsored with the top court.
The court announced that it learned of the situation from a “journalistic institution” on Jan 26 and began investigations henceforth. I wonder which institution of fine journalism earned the privilege of ratting out its competitor? At least one blogger has noted that Asahi’s reporting reads “as if they were taking advantage of the situation“, but I won’t point any fingers myself.
Kibashiri Nikki reminds us that the last bit of fakery took place earlier this month, right after Sankei was extremely critical of the Abe administration for its handling of the faked town meeting scandal just last month.
But it is worth noting that Sankei and Chiba Nippo may not be the only ones who deserve to get slammed:
According to contract documents obtained by The Asahi Shimbun under the information disclosure system this month, the Supreme Court placed an order with advertising giant Dentsu Inc. to hold such forums at 50 locations across Japan from 2005 through 2006.
Dentsu said in its project proposal that the forums could be made known to readers of newspapers with a combined circulation of about 19 million.
So it paid local newspaper publishers to secure the sites for the forums and for other expenses. Each newspaper advertised the forums.
The newspapers are taking the blame for this, and if they were the ones making the payments that’s their responsibility. But isn’t it quite a coincidence that we’re seeing Dentsu involved once again in promoting government policy through so-called “public forums.” You may remember that Dentsu was the main contractor managing the scandalous “faked town meetings” a few months ago. In both cases Dentsu’s clients have been slammed for mobilizing “sakura” (slang for decoy participants) to make the forums look like more of a success. The general sequence of events is the same in both the town meeting scandals and this incident: Govt contracts to Dentsu > Dentsu places responsibility for the project to someone else (local government officials and the newspapers, respectively) > that someone else gets in trouble for poisoning the well. It must be nice for Dentsu to be able to keep its profits and its reputation of being the far-and-away top promotion company in Japan, such that even the government seems content to rely on them.
The Homeku blog sums up the situation well:
If you’re wondering why the newspaper company went that far to support the promotions, it’s because a feature story on the details of the meeting was printed the day after the forum, along with an advertisement for the Supreme Court’s lay judge system.
I think the real story is something like they got overeager in their desire for ad revenue. And anyway, we are talking about that newspaper company. They seem to have a weak sense of mission and ethics as an institution of journalism.
At last night’s press conference it was explained that both companies [Sankei and Chiba Nippo] bore the costs of paying the sakura. But that is inaccurate. These “Nationwide Forums on the Lay Judge System” were contracted out by the Supreme Court to Dentsu (Again?!) and Dentsu paid local newspapers the costs to manage them. Accordingly, the source of the money paid to the sakura was originally from the Supreme Court, in other words it was paid from tax revenues.
Another thing that bothers me is that there seems to be a problem with the Supreme Court spending money to promote the lay judge system. It seems like this deviates from the Supreme Court’s role.
The sequence of events in both the lay judge forums and the town meetings cases is that the government used tax revenue to have Dentsu promote the govt’s own policies to the public. It might be easy to understand if you consider that these scandals occur because the motives are impure.