Reliable information essential in age of confusion

The internet is rife with harmful false rumors and slander. In these confusing times, newspapers must fulfill their mission to accurately report facts and provide material for thought.

Newspaper Week began on Saturday.

Fake videos of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy calling on the people of Ukraine to surrender spread amid Russia’s invasion. Videos were also posted that appeared to be Russian disinformation efforts. One such video purported that residents of pro-Russian areas were being persecuted by Ukraine.

In Japan, fake images supposedly showing houses flooded in Shizuoka Prefecture by Typhoon No. 15 in late September were created using artificial intelligence and disseminated on social media.

With the progress in technology, anyone can easily send out information. But this has also given rise to bad side effects such as allowing false information to be created in ingenious ways, stirring up anxiety and division in society. Accurate information is essential for people to make rational decisions.

Newspaper companies dispatch reporters to incident scenes and interview many people involved to confirm the facts. This is because newspaper companies believe it is their mission to record history in detail and convey it to society.

Social issues have become more complex in recent years, and it has become difficult to see the real issues that should be debated.

The fatal shooting of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe brought into focus the connections between politicians and the Family Federation for World Peace and Unification, widely known as the Unification Church, and the question of whether a state funeral should be held for Abe became a subject of debate.

It is important to uncover the actual activities of the Unification Church. However, the most important thing is specific measures to remedy and prevent harm caused by the religious group. Discussion of these points has undeniably been neglected as a result of the focus on the group’s connections with politicians and the issue whether a state funeral should be held.

We should clarify where the core of a problem lies and present solutions through commentary based on multifaceted analysis. Newspapers’ role as this kind of organ of opinion is increasingly important.

In a public opinion survey conducted by The Yomiuri Shimbun, 76% of respondents said newspaper reports are “reliable.” The most common expectation was “accurate reporting of information.” We must take seriously the expectations placed on newspapers and keep them in mind.

The Yomiuri Shimbun won this year’s Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association award for its series of scoops on suspected corruption linked to the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. The paper was lauded for exposing the dark side of the sports business in connection with the Games last year.

The association has set up a special website to publicize the “power of journalism” and to convey the thoughts of award-winning journalists.

Conducting interviews with a wide range of people involved and delving deeply to uncover issues is what newspapers do. We are determined to continue this kind of reporting in the future.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 15, 2022)