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“Takashi Uesugi: The Interview – Time Out meets the journalist who TEPCO love to hate” via Time Out Tokyo

In the immediate aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese media stayed remarkably calm. While overseas news outlets fretted about nuclear meltdown and terrified expats stranded in a ‘City of Ghosts’, their Japanese counterparts generally hewed closer to the official line: stay calm, go about your business as usual. And, yes, you can still drink the tap water.

But that was only part of the picture. While the mainstream media presented a reasonably united front, a group of freelance and internet journalists were openly dissatisfied with the explanations being given at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s seemingly endless stream of press conferences. Why wasn’t the company mentioning levels of plutonium around the stricken Fukushima Daiichi power plant? What had happened to TEPCO’s president, Masataka Shimizu – last seen on March 13?

One of the most influential members of this group of dissenters is Takashi Uesugi, a former New York Times journalist and, in an earlier incarnation, aide to Liberal Democratic Party bigwig Kunio Hatoyama. The author of books including The Collapse of Journalism, Uesugi is a vociferous critic of Japan’s ‘Kisha Club’ system – a network of exclusive press clubs that, he says, nurtures excessively close relationships between reporters and the organisations they are supposed to cover.

Gadfly to some, hero to others, Uesugi is a much-sought commentator. He makes weekly appearances on Tokyo FM and Asahi Newstar, and is a regular contributor to the Diamond Weekly business website, along with various weekly tabloids. However, he’s most prolific on his own website and via Twitter, where he commands a following of 177,000 and counting. One place place he won’t be appearing any more is TBS Radio, who booted Uesugi from his regular weekly guest slot this month (more on that later).

Time Out caught up with Uesugi last Monday, during a brief lull between press conferences at the TEPCO head office in Shimbashi. We’d gone expecting to have a nice chat about tweets and microsieverts, but smalltalk apparently wasn’t an option. What followed was a eye-opening, if occasionally paranoid tirade against TEPCO, the government and the mass media, delivered in rapid-fire Japanese.

Obviously a lot has happened over the past couple of weeks, but what are the main things you’ve learned?

Continue reading at “Takashi Uesugi: The Interview – Time Out meets the journalist who TEPCO love to hate”.

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