Monday, March 10, 2008

Spring in Niigata

A surprisingly strong effort from the JT this morning.

Ads for Girl Friday, Temple University and an accounting firm on page one, along with five major stories and three color pictures, the smallest of which shows the Serbian Prime Minister leaving a news conference. Not much photo value in that.

On the back page we have a half-page ad for Niigata Prefecture and the spring that is just around the corner, or so says the ad. Kind of hard to see spring through the four feet of snow still on the ground in some areas of Niigata-ken, according to the Japan Meterological Agency weather web site.

Hardly any Japan content in today's paper beyond the six stories on page 2. I could do without the "Kammon tunnel marks 50th anniversary", if only because I can't see the tunnel itself marking anything beyond a hole in the ground.

Nova is still very much in the news, as part of the story about the foreign workers who rallied in Shibuya yesterday. The first paragraph of this story is very revealing: "Foreign workers staged a rally in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Sunday as part of their annual spring labor offensive, calling for proper and equal treatment on par with Japanese working conditions."

I guess the foreign workers have been calling for equal treatment for some time. Nothing surprising there but I would be surprised if they ever got it. I would appreciate some editorial comment from the JT on this issue, at some time. Hey! How about next year?

Lots of job postings today and the section starts with "Eastern Japan" and ends with "Western Japan and Overseas", only two sections. I wonder where Northern and Southern Japan are?

No subtlety at all in JT's choice of lead story for the Perspective pages, with stories from the Washington Past and the LA Times. The lead story is about beauty contest contestants who skin dead muskrats as part of the talent competition to win the title of Miss Outdoors. Japanese kill whales and American women skin large river rats. It's nice to have a balance in life.

The we have two whole pages (almost) dedicated to serviced apartments, something that Gregory Clark weighs in on in his editorial deeper in the paper. I say almost because the heading on the second page is "Serviced Apartment Special/World", the two world stories being about private-eyes and the use of police force in LA. Small world.

The lead story in the News Analysis/Topics section is about Prince Harry and there is hardly any analysis and little substance to the topic, with a huge "who cares?" factor. And the picture is laughable -- a quarter page shot of Harry completely disguised in a helmet, ski goggles and a scarf. It might be Harry. It might be Keith Richards. How would we know?

One the same page is a good, solid story by JT staff writer Takashi Kitazume and I wish we could see more staff-written articles in the JT. The story reports on a speech given on February 25 by Thomas E. Mann, who is a US election specialist. It's a bit after-the-fact to be reporting on the speech this late in March but Kitazume focuses on what is still true, i.e., that the US has not elected a democratic candidate yet, much less a president, and so the story remains timely.

Now to Gregory Clarke's piece in the opinion pages, entitled "Mistaken economic policies", which is kind of redundant as Clarke "seems" to feel, rightly, that currently there are no "correct economic policies" being carried out in the US and Japan. Clarke makes a first-year journalism major mistake of beginning his piece with "seems" as in, "Tokyo seems to have difficulties in handling economic problems." But other than that Clarke's piece is a fine one and he makes the very important point that it is difficult to increase consumer spending in Japan because many consumers have everything they want and/or can afford and don't have the interest or the money or the space for new purchases.

Clarke lays a lot of the blame for Japan's economic woes on the old men who run the place, the same men who want to spur demand by passing laws that make it easier for them, not the rest of us, to buy yachts and luxury apartments and houses.

Aside: The movie No Country for Old Men is called simply No Country in Japan. No Country in English -- no Japanese translation or title. "No Country" makes absolutely no sense in terms of the movie itself but you don't have to give yourself a headache wondering why it was changed, because this country IS an old country for old men, but not much for anyone else!

Strong sports writing today, as usual, with a Sports Scope story from Jason Coskfrey, but with a weak ending paragraph that says that if the players and coaches he has written about do in fact succeed at their jobs and can work together then that "could make all the difference". Small point.

Message to the JT: Please keep the weather section on the back page and don't make us have to look for it!

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