Interview of Mr. IWASE Akira, CEO, NNA Japan

On Wednesday, May 18, NNA Japan’s CEO IWASE Akira visited APU to deliver a lecture entitled “Why do people need economic news? Views from the front line of news reporting.” I spoke to the veteran journalist, and marveled at his insights into news reporting industry and journalism career.

Characteristics of economic and business news

Mr. IWASE shared that it is a daily struggle to maintain objectiveness of news. As human beings are weak, we cannot be freed from our cultural bias. However, subscribers seek objective information from newspapers, which translates into news agencies’ daily efforts to maintain the objectiveness of information provided.

When asked about how news values are defined, Mr. Iwase pointed out NNA Japan’s reporters always think about how corporate clients seek information, and what kind of news they want to read, so their correspondents currently residing overseas always try to communicate with corporate clients. For example, in certain countries general elections are coming, in which news reporters assume readers may be interested. However, their corporate clients may already be able to forecast the results of the elections, and expect NNA to bring more specialized economic news instead. That is why news values are always checked to go accordance with clients’ needs.

Some readers have specific interests. For NNA Japan, readers’ interests are explicit: business and economic news, which, in fact, makes it difficult for the reporters to suggest something else for subscribers to read, also considering the fact that they are not general media. As readers have already decided what to read, reporters are not in a position to advise them to read what. “Rather they define us.”- Mr. IWASE claimed. I commented that was such a strong statement, and he continued stressing that NNA Japan is customer-oriented so as to maintain mutual trust and their service credibility.

News industry is rapidly changing. More and more people tend to read news on Internet, yet it is not a matter for NNA Japan because they have both printed news and digital platform. As NNA Japan focuses on producing contents, the CEO claims he is not worried about the future of news industry, despite the sharp decrease in printed newspapers in Japan over the years.

The career of a business and economic news reporter

As a business and economic news reporter, language skills are essential, yet what matters more is the writing skill in mother tongue. Because NNA Japan’s news is provided in Japanese, and 99% of their clients are Japanese, if the staff writer’s Japanese is not intelligible, it will affect the service quality. “Therefore their writing should be comprehensive, compact, and readable.”- Mr. IWASE denoted.
At the age of 10, he wanted to become a journalist. Studying in school, everybody tries to find the best vocation for themselves, but one also needs to look at their tendency and talents. In Mr. IWASE’s case, he loved reading, and had confidence in terms of vocabulary in comparison with peers of his age. Consequently he decided to be committed to a writing-related vocation; and later decided to become a journalist during his sophomore year. “It’s my passion.”-the veteran journalist decidedly added.

In addition, Mr. IWASE denoted that unlike people’s expectation that correspondents would write international scoops everyday, which is often portrayed in movies, news reporting, in reality, is a painstaking job. There are several types of journalists in a news agency: star players who write big scoops, productive reporters who can write lots of articles per day, and analysts who can produce an in-depth article once every two weeks. The combination of different talents makes the news agency work, so it is difficult to say which is the most important or successful. After working for several years, one will find out what kind of tendency suits them most.

Mr. IWASE chose to become an economic reporter, because he studied Asian history, hence his interest in Asian economy. Because he could cover what he wanted, Mr. IWASE considered it fortunate and what he’d call his “success”. Surely there were challenges along the way, such as the big pressure to start learning Chinese at the age of 30. His calmness while reflecting on encountering the Chinese language at a not-so-young age that led to his correspondence from Beijing afterwards taught me that we are never too old to embark on a new journey to learn, explore, and expand our capabilities.

When asked for his stand on information framing, our veteran journalist considered it as a matter of ethics. “As John Le Carre said, our job (journalist’s) is to get things right. We are not allowed to make groundless news or exaggerate. That is also a big problem for management. If readers feel information on NNA is always framed or exaggerated, it will affect the credibility of our service. Our reporters need to have a high moral ground so as not to frame or make colorful stories. This is the bottom-line requirement. News agencies need to maintain that strict atmosphere.”- Mr. IWASE straightforwardly stated.

As a message for APU students, Mr. IWASE expressed his impression on APU students’ diversified backgrounds on his first visit here. “As NNA Japan covers economic and business news in Asia, we need a lot of Asian talents. The door is wide-open for APU students, and I would be happy to work with you.” Speaking to Mr. IWASE made me realize regardless distinctive qualities reporters of different fields are expected to embrace, patience, courage, confidence, and disciplines set the common ground in journalism. I wish Mr. IWASE all the best, and am looking forward to articles composed by APU Alumni on NNA Japan.

Student Press Assistant (SPA)
NGHIEM Quoc Hoai Minh (Vietnam)