The Asahi Shimbun’s executive adviser said Wednesday he will step down from his post and resign as chairman of the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association to take responsibility for a fabricated report published in the daily.
The incident “tarnished the trust and honor of journalism as a whole,” Shinichi Hakoshima said, adding he would leave the chairman’s post after the association’s annual convention, which will be held on Oct. 18 and 19.
The Asahi Shimbun revealed in late August that a reporter at its Nagano bureau had fabricated a story of a meeting between Nagano Gov. Yasuo Tanaka and former Liberal Democratic Party policy chief Shizuka Kamei to discuss founding new political parties, which was reported by the newspaper.
The Asahi Shimbun issued an apology over the fabricated story and explained the circumstances behind them. It has also fired the reporter.
Reading from a prepared statement during a news conference, Hakoshima said he hopes his resignation will be a “meaningful step” to regain the people’s trust in newspapers.
Hakoshima said he does not view the incident as a chance occurrence but the result of a systemic problem within the organization and called for preventive measures to be put in place, including staff education and an examination of the personnel system.
The newspaper, which boasts the second-largest circulation among national papers in Japan, has been embroiled recently in several scandals, including the leaking to monthly magazine Gekkan Gendai of its reporters’ interview records for an article in January about NHK.
At a separate news conference, Asahi Shimbun President Kotaro Akiyama said, “This is the last chance to regain a trust that is almost lost.”
Despite the scandals, Akiyama said he will stay in his post because “Asahi is in grave danger,” adding he will consider his future after doing his utmost to rebuild the company and reviewing the outcome of his efforts.
The news-gathering process used by Asahi reporters, the training they receive as well as the climate within the company will be scrutinized, and it will take about six months to a year for reforms to get on track, Akiyama said.
Hakoshima said he will step down from his post as executive adviser of the Asahi Shimbun, but the company said he will stay on as an adviser but not in an executive capacity.
Hakoshima was elected the association chairman in June 2003 and re-elected last June.
He joined the Asahi in 1962 and became president in February 1999. However, he stepped down and became an adviser in June, after it was revealed the newspaper had accepted 50 million yen from consumer loan firm Takefuji Corp. for articles that ran in the weekly Shukan Asahi magazine with no indication of sponsorship.
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