Mainichi.jp Apologizes For Pension Murder Article

November 22, 2008

… but not for the erroneous murder accusation.

Mainichi.jp recently falsely accused a man of murder.

Pension Bureau official Kenji Yoshihara was stabbed to death on November 18. His wife, Yasuko, was also critically injured in the attack. The attack is believed to be related to the murders of another former Pension Bureau official, Takehiko Yamaguchi and his wife, Michiko.

A man using the nickname “Popons”, updated Yoshihara’s Wikipedia entry to show that he had been murdered. Because Wikipedia uses UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) to denote the time of edits on entries, a Mainichi.jp reporter mistakenly believed that the edit of the entry had been made before the actual time of the murder.

No fact checks were done, and an article accusing Popons of the murder went to print, it was even featured on one nationally televised morning news program.

When the truth was known, Mainichi.jp quickly deleted the article and online evidence, and went about business as usual. The ever vigilant blogging (or rather bulletin board commenting) community in Japan kept the matter open.

Popons went to his local police station to apologize for any inconvenience he’d caused (although he’d done nothing wrong), and explain the situation to the authorities.

Mainichi remained silent until today, issuing a very short (and very hard to find) correction which can be seen in Japanese here.

The correction, which should be an apology, fails to mention Popons or anyone who was personally injured by the mistake of the Mainichi.jp staff.

As to their mistake, all that is written is that (my translation) “We reported that there was there was an entry on the internet encyclopedia, Wikipedia which seemed to announce the incident beforehand, however the time of the edit was not before the incident, it was after.”

No admission of wrong doing, no mention of Popons, and no one taking responsibility for such a careless breech of journalistic standards.

Does Mainichi (one of the three largest news media outlets in Japan) even realize that it accused an innocent citizen of murder in their national paper, and on national television?

I think a stronger apology is needed, and specific mention of Popons who was a completely innocent victim of Mainichi’s gaffe.

{ 3 comments }

1 Dave December 2, 2008 at 12:41 am

I read about this last week I think. The thing is, none of the other news wires in Japan will report it, and so only people on 2ch and the other blogs will ever know about this.

I know newspapers and websites are sheepish in general to print apologies and mistakes, but falsely accusing someone of murder is slightly more than a typo though. Makes you wonder what other things get reported due to people not researching their articles or showing what they want to show.

2 jay December 2, 2008 at 10:04 am

That’s the beauty of the 2ch type media in Japan. It’s kind of scary that a country so democratic on the surface needs citizen news to get the word out. I hope some major outlet is formed which gets the hint and delivers news without respect to the big companies and government.

Ideally, the media should be one of the checks and balances protecting the people… so I guess that’s why we bloggers and the bulletin board media guys have to do it.

3 Dave December 3, 2008 at 2:11 am

But no major outlet would be formed that will do that as it would interfere with the “wa” in Japanese society and make people believe that maybe all is not right in the Japanese bubble.