The Asahi Shimbun published a partially blacked-out advertisement Thursday that had been placed by the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun to plug an article accusing the newspaper of engaging in “checkbook journalism.”

The Shukan Bunshun’s latest issue contains an article about the Asahi having received “backdoor” money from consumer loan firm Takefuji Corp. to run a series of articles. But the Asahi deleted reference to this in the Shukan Bunshun ad that it ran on its own pages. The magazine hit the stands Thursday.

The quarter-page ad promoting the new issue lists the headlines of its major articles. The headline of the top story reads, “People call it black journalism, 50 million yen that Asahi Shimbun received from Takefuji in ‘backdoor ad fee.’ “

But the ad that ran in the Asahi Shimbun’s Thursday morning edition omits the part of the passage that says, “People call it black journalism.” The passage was intact in the Shukan Bunshun ad that was published in other major Japanese dailies.

The Asahi said it has a policy not to publish advertisements that libel or deny the newspaper’s articles, except when it thinks such ads are appropriate.

The newspaper had initially told Shukan Bunshun through its ad agency that the headline was inappropriate. But after the magazine refused to change the wording, the ad agency blacked out the passage, sources said.

Asahi protested the article in the magazine Wednesday, saying it contains many parts, including one that accuses the Asahi of engaging in checkbook journalism, that are not based on facts, the sources said.

Shukan Bunshun said: “It is inevitable for us to call it black journalism as long as (the Asahi) cannot make a distinction between news and advertisement. The attitude of rejecting reports of facts that are unfavorable to the company could lead to the suppression of the freedom of speech and expression.”

The Asahi acknowledged Wednesday that it had received 50 million yen from Takefuji in the name of “editorial assistance” and published a yearlong series of articles in its weekly magazine Shukan Asahi from 2000 to 2001 without mentioning they were sponsored.

Journalists punished

Mainichi Newspaper Co. said Thursday it has disciplined the chief editor of its Internet English news service for allowing a representative of Bobby Fischer to use a reporter’s armband in order to enter restricted areas at Narita airport when Fischer departed for Iceland last week.

The publisher gave the Mainichi Daily News’ chief editor, whose name was withheld, a disciplinary leave of two weeks. It also issued a reprimand to the Mainichi Daily News reporter for entering an off-limits area at the airport as he followed Fischer for comments.

The chief editor was quoted as saying, “The representative was given limited access at the airport, so I thought I would just offer a favor in return for news coverage later.”

The reporter was reprimanded for entering passport control for departing passengers while interviewing Fischer, according to the publisher.

The chief at the Tokyo head office of Mainichi Daily News, who also serves as deputy head of the general media service department, was also reprimanded, the company said, as he is the supervisor of the chief editor and the reporter.

Armbands are issued to members of the media by the airport operator, Narita International Airport Corp.

Narita International will withhold seven of the 10 access passes issued to Mainichi’s Narita bureau for six months.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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