The “seriousness and anguish” of newspapers’ daily coverage of the Nihon University incident following the arrest of former chancellor Tanaka | FRIDAY DIGITAL

The “seriousness and anguish” of newspapers’ daily coverage of the Nihon University incident following the arrest of former chancellor Tanaka

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Suspect Tanaka arrives at work from his home in July 2018, guarded by officials; he announced his intention to resign as chancellor of Nihon University on Dec. 1 (Photo: Shinji Hasuo)

Hidetoshi Tanaka, 74, a suspect at Nihon University who was arrested on suspicion of tax evasion, was dismissed as chancellor on December 1. The “Tanaka Kingdom,” which he had built up over his five terms of 13 years by consolidating his authority and using his close associates, has collapsed and is finally coming to an end.

Every day, newspapers and TV stations are reporting on Tanaka’s money-grubbing activities, but in fact, the mass media is not new to the business relationship with Nihon University. For example, on April 8 this year, Asahi, Mainichi, Yomiuri, Sports Nippon, Nikkan Sports, and Sports Hochi carried newspaper advertisements celebrating the entrance of new students to Nihon University. As far back as September 30 last year, an advertisement that read, “Nihon University aims to be the most educated university in Japan,” appeared in the Asahi, Mainichi, and Yomiuri newspapers as well as in the Nihon Keizai Shimbun. The catchphrase, ” Nihon University aims to be the most educated university in Japan,” was prominently displayed, along with a photo of former Chancellor Tanaka and his comments.

Needless to say, the two main sources of income for newspapers are sales and advertising. With the emergence of various new media, some companies have stopped advertising in newspapers due to cost effectiveness. In such a situation, private universities, which are struggling to secure students due to the declining birthrate, can be said to be “customers” for some newspapers. Nihon University was one of them in some respects.

Even before the recent scandal, the social studies departments of various newspapers had been trying to uncover any suspicions about Tanaka. However, in some cases, one newspaper took the suspect Tanaka into consideration in order to reach out to the Nippon University money in front of them, although some of the stories made it into the paper.

It’s an old story,” said an official of the newspaper.

A source at the newspaper told us an old story: “Mr. Tanaka was so upset with the article written by the Social Affairs Department that he said, ‘We will never advertise there again. Then, seven or eight years ago, the ad was suddenly published. When I looked into it, I found out that an executive of the company bowed to Chancellor Tanaka for the advertising fee.

Later, when the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office filed a case, horrifying phrases such as “politics of fear,” “dictator,” and “shadow of a gangster” graced the pages of newspapers. The reporters and editors may have said, “We did it, we did it,” but some of the advertising salespeople and executives of some of the companies may have been biting their lips at the series of reports.

The University of Tokyo has also been a destination for some media professionals, including Kyodo News alumni who led press conferences for coaches Masato Uchida and Tsutomu Inoue in the wake of the vicious tackle on the university’s football team in 2018. He was also a major figure who had served as head of the economics department and editorial board.

According to a Nichidai official, “Not only Kyodo, but alumni of other major companies were working in the Public Relations Department as reemployed after retirement. They also play a role in gathering information in case something happens, but I wonder if they are actually useful. Newspapers have a feudal, or rather athletic, nature, but these days it’s not so easy to talk to junior staff or ask them for favors,” he said.

Tanaka also served as the vice president of the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC). He attended every meeting of the JOC Board of Directors, which was held about once a month, but he always showed up just before the meeting started, did not say a word, and left when it was closed with an atmosphere that did not let anyone in.

When I asked a JOC official why he was the vice president, he replied, “He said he wanted to be, so I made some arrangements. He’s done me a favor in many ways. Don’t think too much about it,” was the threatening reply. What exactly was the “benefit” that this executive was talking about?

It is a fact that there was no small relationship between the mass media and Nihon University in terms of money and personnel. Some of the companies were able to keep their antennas up at various places and were able to suppress the most important points. While many of them probably paid off the hand that was extended from the side of Nihon University, there are probably some organizations that have been rolled around in the palm of Tanaka’s large and thick hand. Some of the companies must be agonizing over the possibility of having their advertisements cut off by the University of Japan due to this arrest and the media coverage of it.

On the other hand, if they feel that they have been allowed to do whatever they want, then they have no choice but to thoroughly clarify the main story of the incident. This is where we must show our seriousness.

  • Photo Shinji Hasuo

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