History of International Newspapers: Asahi Shimbun in Japan Part 2

About the International newspaper Asahi Shimbun published in Japan, history and information.

ASAHI SHIMBUN (Tokyo, Japan)

The Present. Asahi Shimbun has the unlikely combination of high-quality journalism and tremendous circulation (over 6 million in 1975). Its staff numbers in the thousands and it has plants in 5 cities. A hundred different editions are published every day. With over 300 bureaus in Japan and about 20 overseas, Asahi still subscribes to 24 different news agencies.

To get on the staff, one must be a university graduate. Only one in 80 of those who apply makes it. The qualifying examination is extremely difficult--involving a translation exercise, writing a long essay, a comprehensive test on current events, and so on. After running the gauntlet of this test successfully, the applicant then faces tough interviews with Asahi executives. Once on the staff, competition continues; apprentice journalists rarely get anything published, yet they keep trying. The paper has a dormitory where, every night, 500 reporters sleep over, just in case they might be needed to cover a story. And they are poorly paid, though not so poorly as other journalists who work for other papers. In compensation, Asahi provides bonuses and prizes.

The Asahi empire is huge, including radio and television broadcasting, book and magazine publishing, and other enterprises. Yet it is not a monopoly. The Japanese are newspaper readers, and Asahi's competitors do very well indeed.

Asahi's headquarters are in a large 8-story triangular building near the Sukiyabashi intersection in downtown Tokyo.

Japanese, with its couple of thousand characters, presents a big production problem which Asahi has partially solved through modern technical innovations. It was the 1st to use telephoto transmission of handwritten copy, and in 1959-1960 it pioneered with kanji character teletype machines and facsimile radiophoto transmission of entire newspapers.

Asahi sponsors projects in exploration, science, aviation, art, music, public health, and many other fields. From 1911 to 1962, for instance, it backed Antarctic exploration and was behind the 1st airplane flight ever made in Japan (1911).

The Murayamas still own the paper and occasionally try to exert pressure in editorial matters; however, control lies, most of the time, in the hands of the board of directors, which is drawn from the paper's working staff. In 1964, tension between the owners and staff grew to such a pitch that it ended up in court. A peaceful compromise was reached.

Asahi Shimbun has been likened to an "exclusive boutique linked to a Paris couturier [which] is set amid a vast range of sound quality ware and where there is no bargain." It is a quality paper with a liberal yet moderate approach to the news and an international outlook.

Scoops. During the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, Keitaro Murai, Asahi correspondent, was the only Japanese journalist caught in Peking. His stories were translated and read everywhere.

In 1943, writer Seigo Nakano was arrested for criticizing Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo. He later committed hara-kiri.

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