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Governors and mayors are increasingly using the Internet for news conferences, but news organizations remain cautious for fear of losing their privilege of getting firsthand information from authorities through press clubs.

Tokyo, Akita and 10 other prefectures are broadcasting live their governors’ news conferences on the Internet, and Kyoto and 14 other prefectures are putting videotaped briefings on the Web.

Because such broadcasts are new, however, it appears there is still a long way to go before local governments and press clubs ensure their openness.

One major problem is that, unlike live broadcasts, videotaped news conferences can be edited, posing the chance that the public will only get information with a positive spin or that casts authorities in a positive light.

Fukui and four other prefectures, and three of 17 designated cities given a status similar to that of prefectural governments, are allowing only videotaped Internet news conferences, but without questions from reporters or answers by administrators.

A Kyoto prefectural official tried to fend off criticism by saying it was the media that asked for such a step. “We have been told by the press club that there are reporters who do not want to be identified” during question-and-answer sessions.

Indeed, press clubs’ member organizations still shy away from identifying themselves — which was unnecessary back in the days when everyone knew who was who.

“There is a fear of pressure from outside, such as ‘why was such a question posed?’ ” a Kagoshima prefectural official said in explaining the sentiment of its press club.

Currently, only Nagano, Tottori and Kochi prefectures make public the names of both the reporters who ask questions and the media firms they represent.

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