Mainichi Wikipedia Murder Accusation

November 21, 2008

Mainichi, one of Japan’s news media giants published a story yesterday accusing a Japanese man of the murder of a former Health Ministry official from the Pension Bureau (an expert on the pension problem in Japan). Kenji Yoshihara and his wife Yasuko were attacked at their home in Tokyo on Tuesday, November 18th. The attacker gained entry by pretending to be delivering a parcel. Kenji died in the attack,

Yasuko is still hospitalized. Also murdered was Takehiko Yamaguchi who was also an administrative vice health minister at the Pension Bureau, and his wife Michiko.
Wednesday morning’s Mainichi print newspaper reported that Yoshihara had been described as “assassinated” in an update to his Wikipedia page six hours before the attack even took place.

Mainichi must have thought they had quite a scoop there to have put it into the morning news and on their online edition without a ton of fact checking.
Mainichi splashed headlines with accusations of murder against “Popons”, the person who updated the Wikipedia site.

If Popons had really marked the people as “assassinated” six hours before they were even dead, certainly Mainichi would have had a scoop on their hands. The problem is that Wikipedia is set to UTC time, not Japan time. Thus, the timing of edits is in UTC, not Japan Standard time. Popons actually edited the Wikipedia entry.

When Popons found out he was being accused and that a big deal was being made of his editing the Wikipedia entry, he went to his local police station and apologized for causing all the trouble.

Needless to say, no one really thought Popons should have had to apologize for anything. The real problem is Mainichi, whoever wrote the article, and whoever did the fact checking (if they do that kind of thing at Mainichi at all).

As far as I know Mainichi has yet to apologize to anyone or even write a retraction.
On top of all this, many Japanese morning news shows feature the morning headlines… so Popons was in the end accused on one nationally televised morning news show (which must have been the only news show to have gone on the air without checking the internet for the reliability of the Popons story).

A common theme in the Japanese Twitter world, BBSs, and blogs can be summed up by saying,
“Poor Popons.”

Another big topic on the net was just how large the word Popons was written. Mainichi must have thought it had the scoop of the year with this one!

This particular article ends with the claim that the police are hot on the trail of a fleeing “Popons”. Completely false.


1 George Donnelly November 21, 2008 at 1:01 pm

Hilarious. Nice article.

btw your title tag for this page appears to be filled with your tags for this post. Is that working? I find title tags under 35 (or was it 50?) words that are meaningful, still have the keywords and arouse interest are most useful.

2 jay November 21, 2008 at 2:52 pm

Mainichi Shimbun has been losing a lot of public trust lately and this is just another case of them dropping the ball. It’s one thing for them to have accused poor Popons, but another thing to try to cover it up… and yet another thing to cover it up so darn unsuccessfully!

I think the extra title tags were from the title tag plugin. I don’t think it was making much difference. The new mystery is why I have two title tags. Thanks as always for the heads up and advice!