Editorials

Newspapers still a vital resource

As you’re reading this, you’ll probably will agree with a survey by the Yomiuri Shimbun earlier this fall that found 88 percent of the public believes newspapers will continue to be necessary in the future for obtaining information and acquiring knowledge.

That significant percentage shows just how important newspapers continue to be in Japan, and how important they will be in the future as well.

The survey was conducted right before the annual Newspaper Week, which in Japan marked its 68th year from Oct. 14 to 21. Ironically, one might say, Newspaper Week gets much less press than it deserves.

The results of the survey, though, revealed the ongoing importance of newspapers to a large number of eligible voters, according to the respondents in the survey. At a rate of 79 percent, they said newspapers provide information that is necessary and useful for daily life.

Asked what they expect from newspapers, the most popular answer is for information to be reported accurately. Only 64 percent said newspapers do in fact impartially convey the facts and a variety of opinions, showing that the reading public doubts and questions the veracity of much reporting. However, 77 percent of readers said reporting is generally trustworthy, a number that has remained steady from past surveys.

Most importantly perhaps, 93 percent of respondents feel that elementary, junior high and high school students should read newspapers. That figure shows how valuable people consider newspapers to be in developing an understanding of the world. No figures were available for how often grandparents or parents read the newspaper with young people, nor how often schools incorporate newspaper reading activities in the curriculum. Clearly, though, they should.

The power of the newspaper press remains an important factor, even in this age of multiple online sources. Throughout Japan, newspapers are still widely available at newsstands and train station kiosks, not to mention libraries. To a lesser extent, everyplace from coffee shops to waiting rooms and other semi-public areas still offers a newspaper for readers to peruse.

It would be a strange future indeed if the availability of newspapers disappeared from those areas.

Newspapers and the media continue to provide information, which the survey found was expected by 74 percent of respondents. Presenting facts in a clear, understandable way was wanted by 71 percent, and providing community-based information was wanted by 43 percent.

Those figures seem to indicate that newspapers are still the source to which people turn to learn such things as the basics of the Volkswagen scandal, the situation of Syrian refugees or the number of Cabinet members who visit or send offerings to Yasukuni Shrine.

Even though the concept of newspapers has surely changed in the digital age, with more people reading on tablets, cellphones or computers, the survey showed that in Japan, newspapers continue to provide a concise presentation of facts about the world that people want, and surely need, to know. Happy 68th Newspaper Week!