Rafu Shimpo: Voices of the Community in Print

News on a screen, rather than paper, is common preference in the digital age. With dramatic drops in circulation and ad revenue cut short, the newspaper industry has suffered a staggering wave of layoffs, bankruptcies and closings. Publishers try to stay relevant by shifting to a stronger online presence via blogging or social media -- but as a result, small press publishers struggle to survive, leaving cities with few voices to inform and communicate the needs of public.

Despite this trend, the Rafu Shimpo -- started by three USC students from Japan in 1903 -- continues to survive today as the oldest and largest Japanese community daily newspaper outside of Japan.

Launched initially in a Japanese language-only edition, the paper delivered local community news, updated Japanese expatriates with news from the homeland, and served as the community directory by advertising local businesses and services.

Rumor has it that the Rafu Shimpo even coined the term "Little Tokyo" in 1930 when the rapid growth of the Japanese American enclave necessitated a name for the neighborhood.

The Rafu Shimpo is more than a newspaper. It is as important to Little Tokyo as a family-owned shop on East First Street, or a longtime resident in Little Tokyo Towers. Just as the freedom of the press roots itself in our nation's founding principles, the Rafu Shimpo is deep-seeded in the foundations of Little Tokyo. Through stories, event coverage, and ongoing relationship with the community, the paper has represented the voices and concerns of the community.

In the videos above, Michael Komai, third generation publisher of the Rafu Shimpo, and Naomi Hirahara, former English editor, describe the newspaper's functions, ownership and pride towards the Little Tokyo community.


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Kelly is a proud member of the KCET Departures team!
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