While journalism pundits have been predicting the death of the newspaper for the past decade or so, there are some newspapermen who have endured despite the ever-changing times. While the name Toshio Hiratsuka and the Oshika Shimbun may not have household recognition in Japan, in his town of Watanoha, he and his paper are legends.
The 89-year-old has been the editor and publisher of the local newspaper since 1949, and currently, is actually the only reporter for the 1,000-strong subscriber base. And while he may not have the capability of covering international and even national news, he has his ear on the ground of his town, covering both local events and politics. He and a partner started out as the Shukan Watanoha (Weekly Watanoha) but eventually changed the name to Oshika Shimbun (Oshika Newspaper) when the other man left. He has been able to write about such historic events like the first Miss Watanoha competition in 1950 which showed that the area was coming back to life after World War II; how the town then became a district of Ishinomaki city by 1959; how the 1960 tsunami hit the town after a major earthquake in 1960.
But the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 almost permanently shut down the paper and Hiratsuka’s career, as his house and life’s work was washed away and 547 people from the town perished, including his sister. He did not plan on publishing again and for six months he did just that, until public clamor made him realize “I’ve got to do it,” he said. Now it really is a family affair as his daughter-in-law types the articles he writes by hand, and his wife and grandson hand-deliver the issues to the local subscribers. He still cycles around the town in order to get the latest news as it happens. He says the success of the paper is not really a new secret since he has been doing it for decades: creating something that “can be appreciated by people” and telling the stories of the town. As one subscriber said, “If you want to know about Watanoha, look in the Oshika Shimbun.”
[ via Sun Daily ]
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