Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My Japanese office mate

Yoichi Nishimura is a newspaper editor on a one-year sabbatical here at Tsinghua University to study China-U.S.-Japan relations. We go to lunch together most days with Joe Weber, a visiting professor of business journalism from the University of Nebraska.

Yoichi has a nose for good restaurants and is always scouting for the next unique experience. He learned well during five years as a correspondent in Moscow for Asahi Shimbun, Japan's second-largest newspaper, and six years at the Washington bureau. "The secret of working in a foreign country is finding good restaurants," he says. 

Yoichi is managing editor of Asahi. Twenty years ago the paper sent him to Moscow State University for a year of intensive study of Russian. He lived with a family and developed his conversational skills. All of this helped him cover the fallout from the collapse of the Soviet Union. He wrote a book about Russia's army and weapons systems in the post-Soviet era.

Asahi sends seven or eight reporters a year to foreign countries just to learn the local language so they can then work as correspondents. During this study year, they file no stories. (American media rarely do this. They often hire people who studied a foreign language and then train them as journalists.) 

Asahi has vast resources. Its circulation of 12 million is six times that of the highest-circulation U.S. daily, the Wall Street Journal. Pretty amazing in light of the fact that Japan's population is only a bit more than a third that of the U.S. The Japanese lead the world in newspaper and magazine consumption per capita. 

Yoichi is always suggesting outings (we went to a Tchaikovsky concert at the National Theater where Bridget performed in July) and encouraging joint interviews with faculty and other interesting folks.

Yoichi, in his early 50s, is learning Chinese to add to his repertoire of Russian and English. His wife and two kids are back in Tokyo while he does his research here. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jim - This is Michelle Schaner. You gave me my first job in journalism in 1995 (Business First, Editorial Assistant). I am also living in China (Xi'an), teaching at a university in the journalism department. We could use some help with curriculum here and it would great to connect if you have time. Let me know! My email is Talk soon!