Punitive measures over Mainichi Daily News WaiWai column announced
The Mainichi Newspapers Co., Ltd. on Friday responded to the publishing of inappropriate articles on the Mainichi Daily News WaiWai column, issuing three months' disciplinary leave to the Mainichi Daily News staff writer in charge of the column.
The responsibility of supervisors was also questioned and punishments were handed to Mainichi Daily News Managing Editor Hiroshi Takahashi, who was stripped of his title for two months, and Digital Media Division General Manager Akihiko Isono -- at the time Deputy General Manager of the Digital Media Division -- who was stripped of his title for one month.
In addition, Director and Digital Media Division Executive Supervisor Atsushi Hasegawa, who at the time was General Manager of the Digital Media Division, was ordered to return 20 percent of his directors compensation for one month, and President Yutaka Asahina -- at the time Managing Director and Digital Media Division Executive Supervisor -- was ordered to return 10 percent of his directors compensation for one month.
The Mainichi Newspapers judged that many readers were made uncomfortable as a result of the translations and inappropriate depictions made when the staff writer in charge quoted ribald articles from Japanese magazines on the Mainichi Daily News site. It was also judged that trust had been lost as a result, with criticism received on the Internet.
Supervisors were called to account over their responsibility for failing to check articles over a long period of time. WaiWai was shut down on June 21.
"We are truly sorry for losing our readers' trust. We will reflect on this problem seriously, and put our full effort into editing and producing a Web site that is trusted," said Atsushi Hasegawa, Director and Digital Media Division Executive Supervisor.
The predecessor of the current WaiWai column was first carried in the printed edition of the Mainichi Daily News in October 1989. After the publication of the newspaper was suspended, we began running WaiWai on the Mainichi Daily News Web site on April 19, 2001.
A staff writer of the Mainichi Daily News Editorial Department, who is a native English speaker living in Japan, and a contributing writer wrote the column, introducing in English aspects of Japanese society and customs by quoting stories run by magazines published in Japan.
The selection of the magazine stories was performed mainly by the staff writer.
In late May 2008, we began receiving opinions that were critical of the column, such as "its contents are too vulgar" and "the stories could cause Japanese people to be misunderstood abroad."
After examining stories in the column, we found some of them were inappropriate and deleted them from the site. We continued to examine other stories in the column while taking measures to block access to all of them.
In the middle of June, some of the deleted stories were carried on a number of Web sites unrelated to the Mainichi Newspapers Co., Ltd., and we received further criticism and protests.
After further examination of the stories in the column, it was confirmed that in one story the staff writer had added information that was not contained in the original magazine story. We reflected on the fact that we had disseminated information that lacked moral character, and cancelled the column completely.
We subsequently ran an explanation of this problem and an apology on our Japanese and English sites. We also published an apology in our morning edition of the Mainichi Shimbun on June 25.
During in-house investigations, the staff writer said: "I introduced what I thought were aspects of Japanese customs by quoting magazine stories, but the selection of stories that I quoted was inappropriate. I'm sorry."
The editorial department, which had left the writing of stories in the column to the staff writer, did not sufficiently check the content of the stories, and those in managerial positions failed to sufficiently supervise the editorial department.
In a related development, a flood of messages and images have appeared online that gravely defame and slander a number of our company's female staff writers and other employees, who are in no way accountable for this matter nor subject to punitive measures. The Mainichi Newspapers Co., Ltd. is determined to take legal action against such clearly illegal acts that constitute defamation.
The Mainichi Newspapers intends to ask the "Open Newspaper" Committee, a third-party organization comprising of experts, to examine whether our response to the matter was appropriate.