By Jordan Ikeda
Rafu Staff Writer
“It is not enough for the newspaper to reflect the community; it must be a press that leads the public.”
These words, written by Ryotei Matsukage, former head of the Buddhist Churches of America and one of the founding members of the Hokubei Mainichi Newspaper, were featured in the first print addition on Feb. 18, 1948.
Sadly, due to a worsening financial situation, after 61 years of vital and relevant service to the Japanese communities of Northern California in which that mission statement has been fully realized, the Hokubei Mainichi announced this week that it will be halting its publication after the Oct. 30 issue.
The news was announced Tuesday via a statement from President and CEO Don Yamate on the Hokubei website and comes less than two months after the Nichi Bei Times, San Francisco’s other major Japanese paper, ceased its publication.
Hokubei English editor JK Yamamoto could not speak in depth about the subject but did confirm the statement’s validity. The statement reads in part:
“Since the closure of the Nichi Bei Times, we made the decision to redouble our efforts and serve an even more important and broader function in the community than before. We are extremely disappointed that we were unable to meet our readers’ expectations…the company will continue to seek investors and make every effort to once again become a media outlet serving the community. We offer our thanks to everyone who has helped us over the years…”
Born on 1737 Sutter St. in San Francisco’s Japantown following the Japanese American return from internment, the Hokubei began with a borrowed printing press and former employees of the prewar San Francisco daily, the Shin Sekai Asahi.
Founders of the paper include: Joshin Motoyoshi, publisher of the BCA’s monthly newsletter, Hojyo; community leader, Sasato Yamate; editor Iwao Shimizu; president Kakuzo Ichimaru; and head of the printing department Saburo Kawai. Over the last six decades, the Hokubei has become a news source for the Japanese American community, providing information about churches, sports, cultural groups, non-profit organizations, and businesses, including articles about civil rights and political issues such as redevelopment and redress.
The paper also branched out with projects such as the Hokubei Mainichi Nenkan (1950-72), a directory of Japanese American individuals and organizations; “View,” a booklet commemorating the Cherry Blossom Festival (1986-1987); “Adoa,” a magazine-style directory of Japan-related businesses (1992, 1994 and 1997) and the free bilingual monthly, “The Beam.”
Seven years ago, the Hokubei launched its first website in Japanese. The English web site (www.hokubeionline. com) made its debut in then fall of 2006, and a new and improved Japanese website (www.hokubei.com) was launched in 2007. It was not confirmed if the website will continue to operate after Oct. 30.
“It is always sad when such a voice for the community is lost,” Maya Blackman, interim executive director of the Asian American Journalist Association told the Rafu Shimpo. “As a journalism organization, we feel the challenges that so many news operations have faced in the current climate.”
“Newspapers have never been just about news,” said Sandy Close, executive editor and director of New America Media, the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2,000 ethnic news organizations. “They’ve succeeded where they have been really integral parts of how communities understand themselves.
“Ethnic media has been a tremendous source of validation as well as a connector, a convener of community. But if, in fact, its role is coming to an end, it is a noble end. I think the Japanese media will stand, always as a powerful symbol of resilience.”