Martin Fackler, the Tokyo Bureau Chief of The New York Times, spoke and exchanged ideas with the students of the Advanced Japanese: Media Literacy class on May 5. Mr. Fackler has first hand experience in the coverage of the 3/11 tsunami and nuclear disaster in Fukushima, and was named as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for International Reporting.
During his visit, he defined the fundamental values and requirements of journalism, as well as thoroughly explaining the nature of mass media and how the introduction of the internet has changed the way information is shared and acquired. Mr. Fackler also shared his experience as the first foreign journalist to set foot in the Fukushima nuclear power plant after the accident, and explained how he was prepared to take a risk in any situation to gain legitimate information that could be used in an article meant for hundreds, if not thousands, of people to read worldwide.
In the Advanced Japanese: Media Literacy class, students learn about the many forms of media used to share information around the globe and analyze real life examples of media, such as commercial advertisements and various articles from newspapers and magazines, in an effort to learn more about what is happening in the world and to practice using the skill of “media literacy” to its fullest extent. So far, two guest speakers, including Mr. Matt Wilce (ASIJ Director of Communications) have visited and worked with this class to help students deepen their understanding on the importance of media literacy and to learn how it is used outside of the classroom.
According to Mr. Fackler, a journalist’s job consists of two roles. The first is to acquire legitimate and accurate facts through methods such as interviews and reading primary sources which includes actually going to the scene, despite the dangers and risks that come with it, and to put all of that into a relatable and interesting story. The second role is to act as a countermeasure to keep organizations and people in power from doing whatever they please.
Mr. Fackler explained that the fundamental values of journalism haven’t changed, yet the number of users, methods of disseminating information and commercial techniques have changed drastically since the introduction of the internet as an efficient, modern alternative to media such as newspapers and TV/radio shows. Compared to the number of subscriptions of newspapers prior to the use of the internet as a mainstream medium, the number of subscriptions and unique online users multiplied the number of viewers by 40. Mr. Fackler also explained the impact of pervasive internet technology, such as gaining much less income due to the fact that advertisements on the internet require clicking on the ad to gain revenue, rather than simply viewing it, as it was in newspapers.
With years of first-hand experience, Mr. Fackler was able to relate closely with the Media Literacy class’ coursework. Tomoki Yamanaka (Grade 9) says that Mr. Fackler’s experiences as a journalist “truly fascinated” him and made him “interested in the evolution of journalism caused by the change in media, from paper to digital articles.” The students of the Advanced Japanese: Media Literacy class are grateful to Mr. Fackler’s for adding real-world context to their studies.