Why is the Japan Times so unreadable?

Since the International Herald Tribune became the International New York Times and for some reason at the same time starting coming with the Japan Times for free, I’ve almost been forced to look at JT a couple of times a week for the first time in years. It hasn’t improved.

There are some actual errors in every edition, but it’s more the terrible writing style such as overuse of headlines and other journalese, e.g. using ‘hike’ in the body of the article when they mean ‘rise’ that drives me nuts. Then there’s the articles that have the Japanese chronological or even seemingly random structure, just with English words rather than Japanese ones…

Unlike most of the questions on this blog, I do have some inside info to help answer this one. A colleague of mine who worked part-time for Japan Times described it as a typical Japanese office, with people given duties because of seniority (or lack of) rather than special ability, and people loath to ask each other for advice. My time teaching in Hokkaido Shimbun was also similar, with students with no particular international knowledge and Elementary English those who were supposed to be going abroad as foreign correspondents.

 

Why do the Japanese buy so many newspapers?

The most in the world, apparently.

Reasons for that statistic include:

1. Many of those newspapers are actually bought by offices (including, strangely, some offices where being seen reading them would be completely unacceptable…)

2. Most statistics include the thinner and cheaper evening editions

3. Many Japanese don’t read for pleasure*, leaving a newspaper the obvious thing to read

4. Really heavy sales tactics by the newspaper delivery salesmen

5. Many Japanese would be embarrassed by everyone being able to judge their political position by seeing what paper they read in public, so regular home delivery is the only solution

6. Most Japanese access the internet on their mobile phones rather than through PCs, making reading of full news articles a bit inconvenient (when possible)

7. TV news is dull and says nothing (NHK) or sensationalist and says nothing (all the rest, e.g. Fuji Terebi), so a newspaper is your best chance of getting some slightly deeper and more even handed coverage

8. It provides some conversational ammunition, the Japanese generally being even worse conversationalists than the British and so desperate for things to speak about

9. Extreme negative reactions to not knowing things that others consider general knowledge

*“a 32-country survey… showed Japan to be the country with the highest number of middle and high school students reporting that they did not read for pleasure” Language and Society in Japan pg 94

Why does the Japan Times publish the cartoons and agency reports a day late?

Meaning a day later than the Daily Yomiuri. And it costs than the Yomiuri or (even better) International Herald Tribune/ Asahi Shimbun. What is wrong with these people???

Seriously though, they do publish a lot more Japan-based journalism than the other papers, so maybe all the money and effort goes into that. Still, only the Sunday edition is worth the extra cash, imo.

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