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 We hosted the first SINCA session last Friday, January 25. It was Expert/Hot topic session entitled “Power of Data, Information, and News- What do we know and what should we do?”

We had close to 50 participants signed up for the session with the experts- George Nishiyama of Wall Street Journal Japan and Miyuki Inoue of Asahi Shimbun.  Daisuke Furuta of BuzzFeed whom we collaborated in designing the session fell ill the day before and could not make it.

As it was the first session of the new year, I welcomed the participants with “Happy New Year, the holidays are over!” introduction.

 I then asked two guests their background and we began discussion on variety of topics. It was interesting to hear the importance of differentiation (for example, WSJ Japan tried to differentiate itself from Japanese media) and Asahi Shimbun Digital Services Innovation Division trying to transform the industry by expanding into distribution channels. They  essentially curate the news from many different sources, not just limited to Asahi Shimbun.

These are familiar strategic moves, but I thought it was very interesting that they are applied to the digital news.

I found it very interesting to hear from experts that the quality of Japanese media is high, and the media literacy of the Japanese is also relatively high.  (Before I heard these comments, I had thought that Japanese media tend to report same things, depending upon the authority as data source.  I also thought that media literacy may not be that high as many tend to seek information from “authority.”

 I also found it very interesting that fake news has been around since ancient times, but due to digitalization and ease of clicks, they spread so quickly today.  This discussion led to the need to develop media literacy which will fit today’s world. I thought we do need to educate or rather learn together with very young generation how we “doubt” the news/information and verify/check sources. (After all, teachers and/or parents also need to develop this attitude and thinking.)   Remarks that the visual fake which has been around lately is difficult to identify, compared with the text were also very interesting AND point to the need for all of us to watch even more.  One of the first steps we could try (as guests said) is that think before we retweet or pass on the information we find “cool.”

I recall that Tasuku Honjo, Nobel laureate, advised “Don’t believe what the textbook says.” I think we need to have curiosity, inquisitive mind and keep on asking questions.

Compared with college students (1% reads newspaper), our group had a bit higher ratio of newspaper readers. At the same time, majority access social media for the news and it has implications on how news need to be written. (Many of us, just go through headlines.)

Relatively short breakout sessions probably raised more questions than answers/actions to take regarding the information and data.  I hope we will have more sessions on this important topic, probably more focused on certain items and/or taking different format such as debate and/or role play.

I was very encouraged by the positive tone of the remarks by the guests, because we often feel negative and pessimistic about media, our information etc.  I thought we could be more literate and freer if we realize that we CAN think and challenge the news, think before we pass it on, and not feel drowned in the big wave of information and news.  I am grateful to two guests and participants who spent Friday evening discussing & networking until late hours.

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