By Gwen Muranaka
Thank you. Arigato gozaimasu. Are there any other words we could say? To the many who came to the community forum last Sunday, to those who have e-mailed, wrote letters, called, critcized and facebooked, the staff is grateful and humbled by your words of concern for the Rafu. Thank you to Iku Kiriyama and Alan Nishio who did such a great job running the forum. Thank you to George Yoshinaga who let everyone know about the forum through his column.
At Sunday’s town hall meeting, there were many suggestions, so many that it is a bit overwhelming. As I sat in on one of the roundtable discussions, I listened to ideas from adding content to selling more ads and subscriptions. We’ve certainly thought of ways to save the Rafu, but this was a chance for those outside of the newspaper to offer their thoughts.
It struck me as telling of the daunting challenges facing Rafu that the New York Times announced this Thursday that they would begin charging for online content: precisely one of the suggestions that came up during the forum. If the New York Times is trying a dramatic change in their business model, what does it mean for a small community paper like this one?
It was also good and a bit bracing to hear the criticism from Japanese readers, whose concern showed that more needs to be done to reach out to the Japanese readers and to somehow bridge the schism that often exists between the English and Japanese sides. More stories which are in both English and Japanese was one of the suggestions that came out from the forum. Rafu is one newspaper with many readerships, spanning different cultures and generations, which all must coexist. All those sides have a vested interest in the paper’s survival and that’s where we can all come together. That was the message I came away with on Sunday.
I’d like to share some of the comments we’ve received from readers. Normally, I would not run anonymous comments, but I found them quite interesting. No doubt, there are a lot more ideas out there and this is the beginning of an important discussion.
“I think that the Rafu brand can be a sort of unifying community point online, for a myriad of JA communities and organizations, rather than simply a news organization. I think you should consider forming a FREE ning.com group and reaching out to every community center, martial arts group, temple, church, boy scout and girl scout troop from the San Fernando Valley to Gardena and across to West Covina. Tell them that they
can form their own groups online.” (Daniel Sato)
“I just read the piece on how to save the Rafu. I saw the standard solutions that will probally not work. This may suck to hear but here it goes, Dude your newspaper on the English side is boaring. (sic)” (Anonymous)
“Rafu is business. Business must be justified by profit. The problem the paper faces currently cannot be resolved without addressing the business aspect of the publication.
The unfortunate demise that other JA papers met in the recent months is a lesson but
also an opportunity for Rafu to step up. I know that JAs not served by JA papers are
hungry for the news unique to the JA communities at large. Any 3 month old Rafu or
Kashu used to be circulated among anyone who are grateful to read every piece of
news including obituaries of people we did not even know. Rafu must capture the
readers left unattended when their JA papers closed down.” (Anonymous)
“Many readers are sansei or younger and they need to see a reason to subscribe to the Rafu. They need to read stories that interest them and keep them connected to their roots and other JA’s in their age group. Too often we see features of the same high profile people and read about the same injustices of camp. While it’s important to remember our history, it’s also important to write about current events and quality of life issues that appeal to subscribers. In this regard, it might be helpful to form a committee represented by different age groups and life stages to learn what’s important to them and how the Rafu can help. It’s especially important to get young people to support the Rafu.”(Larry Yamashiro)
As Iku said at the meeting’s conclusion, this was only a first step and there will be others. Again, thank you to everyone and feel free to e-mail, call, and yes, complain.
Gwen Muranaka is Rafu English editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ochazuke is a staff written column. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.