Jessica from CNN

So, I just started writing for CNN Go, and I’m pretty excited about it.  You’ll have to excuse my shameless self-promotion, but I’m just going to link to my first article here. It’s about Burmese refugees living in Tokyo.

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4 responses to “Jessica from CNN

  1. I read this yesterday on the CNN site and was puzzled by it – I found it a bit weird that you say the Japanese government is accepting these refugees for ulterior motives — backed up by opinions from various groups –but there is no mention of the government’s official position, nor did you contact the MOFA for comment (or if you did, there is no mention of it in your article).

    How would you like to be accused of something in the mass media without being given the chance to state your case? A failure of basic journalism standards, there.

  2. jessicaocheltree

    Hi, Bobby. Thanks for your comment. First, I want to be clear that I’m not accusing the Japanese government of anything. I’m happy they are accepting more asylum cases, whatever the reason. The story that I wanted to tell in this article is about the perceptions of the move in the Burmese community, which I found surprising. There is a lot of cynicism there because of what they have been through. Second, I feel that the government’s official position is already well known, which is one of the reasons I didn’t feel the need to include it in the article. Japan has long been known as a major financial donor to humanitarian causes, but is equally famous for their closed borders and “homogeneous” society. They’ve been announcing that the acceptance of these refugees is a test case and expressing a willingness to reexamine the question of migration in light of the aging population. Particularly for readers in Asia, I figured that much went without saying.

  3. Hi Jessica

    Members of the Burmese community are entitled to their cynicism, and kudos to you for getting out there to report it. But there are other ways to interpret the move – such as a small, but still important, first step on the path to Japan accepting more refugees. The Burmese community’s voice is part of a bigger picture.

    Your duty as a journalist is to always remain impartial – not just to report one side of the story without giving the other side the chance to have a say. There’s no justification for assuming that everyone knows the Japanese government’s position, especially as many readers of CNN may be overseas. You could have contacted the government for comment – you might even have got something interesting from them. Probably not. But your piece gives no hint that you even tried.

    I think this is why much reporting on Japan is of a poor standard – it always seems to exist within a framework of preconceptions about the motives of the Japanese government, or the direction of the Japanese economy, or the weirdness of Japanese society….etc. etc. ad nauseum.

    Why am I writing this? I’m not trying to have a go at you – your writing is good (better than most of the dross on CNN Go) and you seem to want to take on subjects that don’t usually appear in the mainstream media. I just don’t want to see another journalist churning out the same tired, sloppy stuff that constitutes much of current reporting on Japan. In short, be original.



  4. jessicaocheltree

    Hi, Bob. Well, that’s a bit of a backhanded compliment, but thank you. 🙂

    Actually, I did try to get in touch with someone in govt when I was doing the initial research for this article. I contacted three different people who are directly involved with the relocation, but I couldn’t get any of them to speak with me, at least not on the record. So, in the end, I decided that Mr. Saw Ba, who is a govt consultant on Karen issues, would have to suffice as the official voice. Perhaps, as you suggest, I should have been more aggressive in getting someone on record, but as I explained, I didn’t feel like it was going to add much to the piece.

    It seems to me like we are talking about two different articles: one which looks at the question of why the Japanese govt accepted more refugees and one that looks at the reaction in the Burmese community. You and I may disagree about whether the two approaches are equally valid, but I obviously feel that they are. It’s also a question of the forum. For a lifestyle and community publication like CNN Go, this is the angle I decided to take, but for a straight news publication like the main CNN page, I probably would have written the article you are talking about.

    In any event, I appreciate the feedback, and I’m happy to have a reader holding my feet to the fire, as it were.

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