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Tablodization and the Media, Vol. 5 - 1998, No. 3

The Home and Family Section in Japanese Newspapers

, pages: 51-63

Japanese newspapers are unique in the world in that they have extremely large circulations and are, at the same time, "serious." The market leader, Yomiuri Shimbun, sells around 10 million copies daily and Asahi Shimbun, the next best-selling, sells 8 million copies daily. Per capita newspaper readership in Japan is one of the highest in the world. Another remarkable fact about the leading Japanese newspapers is that, despite the fact that they are now classed as serious, they originated as "little," or tabloid, newspapers. It was only gradually that they came to have their current status. The newspapers retain an element of their original tabloid character in their "home and family" sections, which are amongst the most popular parts of the papers. The readers of these sections are primarily women, and it is in these pages that many of the issues directly affecting domestic and family life in Japan have first been aired. The news in the political and economic sections of the paper is produced in close co-operation with powerful news sources in government, industry and the civil service, organised through the `press club' system. It thus tends to have an "official" character. The home and family sections are free of these restraints. The journalists employed on them are marginal to the internal status hierarchy of Japanese newspapers, and this was the first area of journalism to employ any large number of women journalists. Today, the position of the home and family section is being undermined. Social changes mean that young journalists are much less deferential than a generation ago, competition between media has meant the blurring of the boundary between hard and soft news, and newspapers overall are very keen to get closer to the aspirations and interests of their readers.

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