Japanese Sports vs The Media: Battle for Audience

What it is like to be caught in between two massive industries of Japan fighting for their popularity rates

A Typical Story for the Tabloid Media
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Not a day goes by without Japan getting into the news headlines: natural disasters, economic and political changes, and of course sports. There are news to be proud of, there are news a lot of people would prefer not to make public at all. But as much as sports, newspapers, and especially tabloids, aggressively compete for audiences attention and popularity ratings. No wonder that quite often athletes are caught in between the hammer and the anvil.

For example, recent media hunt on the Japanese athletes from the national basketball team after them allegedly paying for the services of sex workers. Four members of the team never managed to finish the Asian Games that took place in autumn because of the aforementioned incident, which turned into a full-scale scandal highlighted in the major published and online media.

A Year of Bad Publicity

A Year of Bad Publicity
Aside from all that bad publicity that befell sports in Japan, the scandals don’t seem to stop but rather keep coming one after another. Harassment and abuse in gymnastics, misuse of funds by the Japan Amateur Boxing Federation, the case of an illegal tackle by the member of the Nihon University American football team, or the accusations and allegations of harassment revolving around the Japan Wrestling Federation, and now this.

It’s been a year of bad publicity in sports for the country of Japan without any doubt. So, what really happened in the case of the Japanese athletes versus the media? According to Minako Saito, a media critic, things aren’t what the media says they are. With all their stories, it gets pretty hard to understand what’s really going on.

Partially, all the scandals in amateur sports are highlighted more often and more harshly, because television and amateur sports aren’t as deeply related as professional sports and TV are. Thus, the reporters have certain liberty to cover almost any scandal any way they want without any fear of repercussions the way professional sports news will probably never be. Hence, the TV charges against Japanese athletes.

Knowing this, it’s no wonder that this basketball scandal isn’t any different from the rest of sports-world awkward scandals. That’s probably why the focus is on sex workers, as the mainstream media simply loves these “juicy” stories. The administrators in sports are also no different, as they seem to run things based on tradition and a “no questions asked” policy.

That way, every time a scandal erupts, they seem to have no clue about it but it is, in fact, the other way around. Since the tabloid media aren’t following any ethical guidelines, they’re actually contributing to the rise of the frequent sporting scandals that plague Japan.

With the “public enemy number one” treatment the Japanese athletes received, it’s more than clear that their lives will never be the same.

A Typical Story for the Tabloid Media

A Typical Story for the Tabloid Media

It all comes down to this basketball story being a typical example of the mainstream media blowing things out of proportion. From the disgraceful return of the athletes from Jakarta to the news conference, everything seemed more like a public execution than anything else. On top of all that, the mainstream media even demanded that the basketball team members publicly apologize to the nation.

As the result, the careers of these young men have been completely ruined. With the “public enemy number one” treatment the Japanese athletes received, it’s more than clear that their lives will never be the same.

In the weekly Shincho coverage of this scandal, three factors have been determined as the main reason for such behavior of the young athletes: the players’ naivete, obligation to wear uniforms in public, and a few beers too many to celebrate a preliminary tournament victory.

After that celebration and drinking, the athletes were on their way to a hotel when they were approached by the aforementioned women. Unfortunately, an Asahi Shimbun photographer was there to take pictures of the initial exchange and everything went downward from that moment on.

Journalistic Professionalism

The fact that the place where the athletes celebrated their victory has been quite popular for sex workers doesn’t work to their advantage at all. On the other hand, various independent Japanese reporters and editors said that it’s rather ridiculous to even think that the athletes should be held to different moral standards than regular people when sports are the main focus of their lives.  

Therefore, it’s no wonder that the Asahi Shimbun’s self-centered decision to accuse these young athletes of their late night adventures was questioned by Shincho. The main argument is whether the (presumably) false journalistic sense of professionalism expressed by Asahi Shimbun has ruined the careers of these men. Not only that, but that bad publicity Jakarta now has won’t just go away, which in turn might jeopardize their future business attempts. It seems that the Asahi Shimbun will stop at nothing on their path for higher rates.

Beside Shincho’s efforts to shed some light on this whole scandal situation, social media networks like Twitter also didn’t remain silent regarding the case of Asahi Shimbun. Some users even went a step further in accusing Asahi Shimbun of ruining the chances for the Japanese basketball team to prove itself at the Asian Games. However, Asahi Shimbun remained silent on the matter.

What will happen next is a story of its own but it’s quite certain that the country of Japan will have to take some strict measures to get a grip over such sporting scandals that might ruin this country’s reputation across the globe. Incidents happen in every country but in the case of Japan, it seems like the media has a sweet tooth for blowing things out of proportion a bit too often.

Today’s “otsumami” – a bite size snack:

Scandal is the sport of its authors, the dread of fools, and the contempt of the wise. –  William Benton Clulow

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