Interviewing a Reporter from Rappler, Headed by the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize Winner: Areas of Interest in Japan and the Current Situation of News Media in the Philippines
post date : 2021.10.15
The Foreign Press Center Japan (FPCJ) has started a new series of Interviewing Press in 2021. We interviewed participants of the fellowship programs for journalists planned and operated by the FPCJ, and asked them about their areas of interest in Japan, as well as the current situation of the news media in their countries. Here are the unique views of journalists who have actually visited Japan and gathered news firsthand, and who are currently working in the changing media industry around the world.
Ms. Sofia Tomacruz, multimedia reporter for Philippine online news site Rappler
The FPCJ interviewed Ms. Sofia Tomacruz, a multimedia reporter for Rappler in the Philippines. Rappler, co-founded in 2011 by Ms. Maria Ressa (who was awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize), is an online news site known for its reporting which frequently uses videos and graphics. Our interviewee, Ms. Sofia Tomacruz, visited Japan as part of a 2019 fellowship program by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation, in cooperation with the FPCJ, for experienced journalists from ASEAN countries. She reported on migration and the current state of multicultural coexistence, traveling not only to Tokyo but also to Hyogo, Osaka, Kyoto, and Ibaraki. For this interview, we asked her about her areas of interest in Japan, and how social media and other factors are changing the state of media in the Philippines.
Your areas of interest in Japan
Q. When you came to Japan, you covered the migrant issues. Has your impression of Japan changed after your visit to Japan over the given topic? How do you look at Japan today? Are there any other topics you would like to report on?
The situation of migrant workers in Japan has always been an interesting issue to study because of the tensions between Japan’s demographic challenge seen with its aging population, and its unique culture that is quite homogenous. As a journalist that comes from a country where it is common for many to leave for work abroad, the trips facilitated by the Foreign Press Center of Japan and Sasakawa Peace Foundation were indispensable in understanding how countries like Japan try to open up to accept migrant workers. The issue is especially important as Japan tries to find more ways to grow its economy, create goodwill among neighbors, and strengthen its political clout in the region.
Since visiting Japan in February 2020, my impression of it as a country filled with kind and hardworking people has been cemented, especially after meeting many Japanese who worked with migrant communities and often went the extra mile to support those who were unfamiliar with life in a new country. In every city we went to, the effort of many Japanese workers to welcome foreigners and their families into their community showed how the country is slowly making the effort to open up. This showed me a side of Japan—especially among younger groups—that feels more ready to accept foreign workers perhaps in the next few years.
Of course, like many other countries, Japan also has its share of contentious issues like discrimination against foreigners and exploitation of migrant workers but these instances were almost always met with efforts from Japanese rights advocates who represented and protected foreigners who could not speak out for themselves. That was hopeful to me. There are many more topics I would like to report on, including Japan relations with the Philippines, its security and foreign policy, as well as its history, arts, culture, and cuisine.
Current situation of the news media around the world
Q. With the widespread use of social media, the establishment of new media outlets growing in popularity, and also the pandemic, the situation surrounding news media has been changing greatly. In your company or the region you work in, what kind of impact do you see in particular, for instance, a change in the number of your subscribers, diversification of reporting formats, etc.? How are you responding to those challenges, and what do you see in the future for media in your region?
Rappler has always been an online news site so when the pandemic hit, we found ourselves well equipped to cater to readers who increasingly turned to social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to get their news. We were able to attract a significant new number of readers early in the pandemic but the challenge has been keeping readers’ interest and attention especially as there is an overload of information on the internet and as competition has increased.
This has pushed us to diversify our reporting formats by creating new ways for our reporting to reach people – whether it be through podcasts, live interviews, video explainers, or data-driven stories. We have also tried to build more communities online through virtual events with editors and reporters to reach people and create more meaningful connections with readers. Rappler has also been aggressive in calling for social media platforms like Facebook to address the dangers of disinformation that thrives on the site and can have a real effect on people. This becomes especially urgent as the country approaches another national elections in 2022. We know that social media is here to stay and that more and more people will only continue to turn online for their daily news fix.