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Several weeks ago Fuji TV’s morning news show sent a reporter to the Gunma Prefecture “antenna shop” located across the street from the Kabukiza theater in Tokyo’s Ginza district. The store, which sells products made in Gunma, pays ¥64 million a year in rent for the small two-floor space, and an independent auditor had concluded it’s too much given the prefecture’s shakey finances. Though the story reflected negatively on the shop, the manager was happy to talk about it, since it was free air time and, as the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity, but just to play it safe during his interview he was accompanied by the silent, smiling figure of Gunma-chan, the prefecture’s official yurukyara, or costume mascot — a squat, bipedal horse.

The presence of a cute character takes the edge off a news report that might be critical in tone, though this strategy could backfire if it gives viewers the impression that the manager wasn’t taking the implication of fiscal irresponsibility seriously.

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