You may have seen that the Japanese government is considering moving away from a press club system. The press club is a small cadre of journalists, who get access to government officials, often working in the same office building, a result of Japan’s post-war system, which had a single party in power until recently. The proposal is to move to a more open system of public disclosure, granting more access to a broader range of journalists. The New York Times article on the topic is here.
What I liked was the press club’s defence, from former chairman of the press club Shinji Furuta:
“What if someone tried to commit suicide or burn themselves to death at a press conference? Who would take responsibility for that?”
Irrational resistance to change is common, but seldom this absurd. It’s interesting that the arguments to preserve a system seem to have a lower threshold that arguments to create it. An argument by Mr Furata to create a press club to prevent suicides at press conferences, presumably wouldn’t get New York Times coverage.
As an aside, I did look into the risks associated with press conferences, and the man who threw his shoes at President Bush last December was a pretty senior journalist – a correspondent for an Egyptian TV station, so a press club system wouldn’t have kept him and his size ten shoes out. On a more sombre note, there was a suicide at a press conference in Philadelphia in 1987, but that was by the very politician who called the press conference, Budd Dwyer a State Treasurer being investigated for taking kick-backs. He was not a journalist.