The 64th annual Newspaper Week kicked off Oct. 15 and will end this Friday. The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association held the first Newspaper Week in 1948 to remind newspapers of their social responsibility and to help people understand the role of newspapers. This year was marked by the unforgettable March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear tragedies that devastated the Tohoku Pacific coastal areas.

Many newspaper companies themselves were impacted by the disasters, with both their facilities and employees falling victim. Still those newspapers continued to provide coverage of the unfolding events.

In the days shortly after the quake and tsunami, when power shortages plagued the disaster areas, residents there avidly read newspapers to get vital information. Those newspapers also utilized social media such as Twitter to report on disaster damage and to provide useful information to those who required help and support.

The strong demand for newspapers shows that they still possess an unsurpassed ability to gather and disseminate information, and that they remain highly trusted. The use of Twitter has also widened the horizon for their activities.

But full marks cannot be given to the newspaper industry concerning its coverage of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and many questions must be raised. Did reporters accumulate enough knowledge to critically evaluate information given by nuclear experts , government officials and Tepco staff? Did they make enough efforts to break attempts by the government and Tepco to hide information? Or were they brainwashed over the years by the nuclear power establishment’s propaganda and blindly accepted the myth that nuclear power is safe?

As far as the reporting on the Fukushima nuclear crisis is concerned, some people relied more on reports by the foreign media in Japan. This fact should serve as food for thought for the Japanese newspaper industry. As the nation continues to face economic, political and other difficulties, it is imperative for the newspaper industry to hone its sense of what is truth and to look at things from the viewpoints of citizens, not from the viewpoints of people in power.

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