THROUGH THE FIRE: Reading The Rafu

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bill watanabeBy BILL WATANABE

I started reading The Rafu Shimpo (English Section) ever since I was a kid because my parents were Issei and the paper was delivered to our home in the San Fernando Valley by mail. Back then I only read the cartoon strips that were in English — cartoon serial characters like Buffalo Bill, Dick Tracy, Li’l Abner, Rex Morgan MD, and I think Brenda Starr. Every day, I would get The Rafu and immediately flip to the cartoon strip to read the next segment.

Now, many decades later, I still read The Rafu, but sadly one of the first things I look for are the obituaries! But at least now I read the other stories and articles to find out what is going on in our community and to look at the photos and read the captions.

I guess reading the paper is a throwback to an earlier era when the only options for getting the news were the newspaper or radio or TV (or gossip). I’m not sure how many people under the age of 40 actually sit down and read the newspaper anymore. I suppose someday phrases like “stop the presses” and even “reading the paper” will become anachronistic because presses and paper will join the ranks of buggy whips and four-track tapes.

Being retired, I can take my time and read The L.A. Times from cover to cover — and really dig into the more interesting articles. I suppose there are advantages to getting your news off the Internet, but I like the advantage of flipping the paper pages back and forth, reading it while sitting on my washlet toilet, reading while brushing my teeth (and sometimes spilling toothpaste on it, but who cares?), or folding it to swat a fly. I still get a lot of news through gossip — but it now comes to me via Facebook!

My 99-year-old mother-in-law who lives with me loves to read The Rafu Shimpo from cover to cover and she is always looking for people she recognizes. She gets so excited when she sees my name or picture in The Rafu and always makes sure to point it out to me. I am going to state that my mother-in-law’s name is Sue so she can read it and get excited about that!

That’s the great thing about a community paper — you can actually know some of the people in the paper from time to time — although you don’t necessarily want to recognize a name in the obituaries!

All print media formats, no matter how big their circulation, are currently undergoing some major tectonic shifts in their industry — trying to find the right formula for staying alive and vibrant and meaningful. I don’t think people in the newspaper business, even at The L.A. Times, have any real clear sense of where the future will take print media.

But I think print media like The Rafu Shimpo may have an additional survival advantage because it not only brings the readers news from afar, it also is a “community connector” that helps to link the different parts of a smaller and more definable community of people.

The Rafu survives on subscription and advertising revenues. If you are reading this article, that’s good and it probably means you have a subscription. If you are reading a borrowed copy — that is also good but I hope someday you will subscribe and support the paper too. The bigger the circulation, the more advertising revenues to help the paper survive.

The Rafu Shimpo has survived for over a century — and it has been a part of my life for over 60 years. I hope it will survive for another century because that will mean that there are still things happening that are significant to report and that our community still has identity and meaning worth knowing about.

PS: The idea for this article was entirely my own and unsolicited by The Rafu.

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Bill Watanabe writes from Silverlake near downtown Los Angeles and can be contacted at [email protected] Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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