Standing in the wake of devastation
Editor of The Kahoku Shimpo newspaper.
Four days after the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, the first coastal cities I visited for coverage were Ishinomaki, Rikuzentakata, and Ofunato. The scene of destruction before me was astonishing. Feeling at a loss, I could not help but wonder what I could do. I believe other media reporters who visited there also felt the same way.
I then met local people who were determined to live on through the destruction. I felt compelled to start recording their lives and everything I saw in these communities.
Because the situation was so overwhelming, simply recording what I saw was the only thing I could think of to do.
Extending our sympathies to those who suffered significant losses
Following the disaster, TV crews and media reporters from Tokyo flocked to devastated areas where all they could see were masses of rubbles. I believe such unusual scenes influenced them to spend a lot of time covering the more shocking scenes and terrible stories.
What made our local newspaper staff different from these reporters was that we were also locals who were struggling to get through a hard time. People we ran into in devastated communities were the people whom we had written about in our newspaper before the earthquake. We were deeply involved in local people’s lives and our relationships with them were longstanding.
Many of our staff were born and raised in disaster-stricken communities such as Ishinomaki, SanrikuIwate and Fukushima. Since long before the 3/11 earthquake, these reporters have been supporting local people’s activities by interviewing and covering their stories about community & town building efforts, traditional cultures, and history. In this sense, we know what has been lost, because our local newspaper has witnessed and written about people’s lives during a period spanning more than 100 years.
I believe that knowing what we lost enabled us to think about what should be recovered in rebuilding local communities, learning how people felt about their losses, and conveying how deeply saddened they were by these losses.
Conveying people’s voices as they are
I believe that every journalist has a mission to help people who want to see their voices heard.
We journalists are here to help these people by contributing our professional skills.
But the space of a newspaper is always limited, so we have to trim interviewees’ words that can sometimes fill an entire notebook down to what we think is most important, which is somewhat like polishing a grain of rice.
Based on all of this trimmed information, I started a blog: “Making a newspaper feeling aftershocks” in March of last year, where I have been working hard to convey each and every detail of what I have seen and heard from people in Tohoku.
In my blog, I try not to use judgemental words or reportage-like expressions, but to focus on making the stories come alive so that readers can feel as though these stories came from their own experience.
Since a blog has unlimited space and no restriction on physical distribution, it allows my articles to reach much farther places from Tohoku.
Media as a means of connecting people
As I said earlier, I started covering disaster-stricken areas four days after the 3/11 disaster. At that time, I realised that we would need more platforms to send out messages from people in Tohoku.
I believe that the true role of media is to connect people who want to see their messages conveyed to the world.
This thought always reminds me of the original meaning of “media” as a means of connecting or conveying.
I think it is important to encourage more people to be involved in such efforts. To this end, our Kahoku Shimpo newspaper is carrying out a range of activities such as setting up a social network service through our website on the section featuring the 3/11 earthquake. Our evening edition team is also posting daily information on Twitter, and reporters are putting their articles on their own blogs. Our digital editorial team also runs a series of stories about life after the earthquake.
Sending out messages will help Tohoku not to be forgotten.
Sending out messages will also connect us with people around the world and will empower us to move forward with rebuilding.
That is why each one of us needs to keep sending out messages from here in Tohoku.
Interviewer Kamei’s note:
During the interview, Mr Terashima noted: “(As local reporters who struggled to get through the tragic event with community people), every one of us know what has been lost and what should be recovered in rebuilding our communities.”
His words struck my chord.
This year’s TEDxTohoku concept “Together, to an undiscovered future” also conveys a message that turning our eyes to values that have been nurtured in Tohoku will help us create tomorrow’s Tohoku. I believe that Mr Terashima’s words indicated a very important angle for us to think about how we should shape Tohoku’s future.
In our previous interview with Professor Seiichi Otaki of Tohoku University Graduate School of Economics and Management, he talked about three elements essential for the rebuilding of Tohoku: understanding, connecting and fostering. This time, Mr Terashima from the Kahoku Shimpo newspaper defined the role of the media as a “means of connecting people”. Given both of their words, we can see how the role of the media is extremely valuable as a means of “connecting” our rebuilding efforts.
Through the interview with Mr Terashima, I had an opportunity to think through the word “connecting”. I believe that “connecting” involves three steps. Firstly, we recognise a person or an object to which we will be connected. Secondly, by spending time together, we will come to a better understanding of each other. Lastly, we build a supplementary relationship just like an eco-system.
Through these steps, I believe that a community will be born where like-minded people can come together to bring a new idea to life and take action in the real world.
Mr Terashima stressed that sending out messages will connect people. This is because it will encourage people to pay attention to where these messages come from and promote them to come visit these places.
Our hope is that TEDxTohoku will pursue the true sense of media that Mr Terashima defined.
Hideya Terashima is editor of The Kahoku Shimpo newspaper. Born in 1957, he grew up in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture. After graduating from Waseda University with a BA in law, he joined The Kahoku Shimpo and has held a number of positions including reporter, features editor/writer, editor, and deputy director of the Editorial Bureau/Director of the Lifestyle Department. Hideya has an extensive experience in covering stories in Tohoku. He won awards from the Japan Newspaper Publishers & Editors Association for recognition of his works: “A hidden water stream running beneath your heart- prayers from North” and “Journey of Oryza”. From August 2002 to March 2003, Hideya was a Fulbright scholar/Media Fellow at Dewitt Wallace Centre for Communications and Journalism, Duke University. He is also the author of a number of books including: “Civic Journalism Challenges: American Regional Newspapers Connecting Communities”(Nihonhyoronsya); and “Creating a new life from sorrow – a 300 day journal in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake by a Kahoku Shimpo editor ”(Kodansha). He currently runs a blog titled:”Making a newspaper feeling aftershocks” on SNS Furrato.
(Translation: Aya Inagaki)