As a child growing up in Los Angeles, I was only vaguely aware of the Rafu Shimpo. It was that paper that my grandmother would cut box scores out of after my Crescent Bay Optimist basketball games. It was not until college, when I took my first photo internship at the paper and took an asian american studies course that touched on the paper and its role in the community prior to and after internment during World War II, that I got a a greater sense of the importance that the Rafu has had in the history of the community.
Now, like so many print media organizations, especially ethnic media, they are in danger of being shut down. The Nichi Bei Times, the Japanese/English newspaper in northern California, was closed on Sept. 30 of last year, after 63 years of operation. The Rafu Shimpo began printing in 1903, ceasing operations from 1942 to 1946 before starting up again.
Recently the Rafu announced that they will be holding a town hall forum to discuss ways to renew interest in the product:
To Rafu Supporters: “Save the Rafu” Town Hall Forum
If you’re reading this “first-hand,” you may think this does not apply to
you. However, it does. Your opinions and suggestions to keep The Rafu
Shimpo from following the path of so many print media, both mainstream
and vernaculars, into extinction are very much needed.
Equally-and maybe more so-input from the non-reading and non-subscribing
population is vital. Answers to such questions as:
What would encourage you to subscribe? Does the **Rafu** address your
interest areas? If not, and if they did, what kinds of news would bring
you in to the readership? If your local organizations’ newsletters keep
you informed of local community news, would you see the value to the
greater community to send articles to the Rafu?
To subscribers, do you have issues you would like to dialogue with the
Rafu staff to improve your reading enjoyment? Have you said to yourself
and family and friends, “I wish the Rafu would…” “Why do they…?” “Why
don’t they…?” What do you see for the future of the Rafu?
On Sunday, Jan. 17, these and any other comments, questions, and points of
information will be aired at the “Save the Rafu” Town Hall Forum, from 2
to 4 p.m., at the Gardena Valley Japanese Cultural Institute (GV JCI),
Veterans Hall, 1964 West 162nd Street, Gardena 90247.
Rest assured: this is NOT a fundraiser. Also, you will NOT be given “the
evil eye” if you’re not a subscriber.
I still believe that one of the Rafu’s greatest strengths is in the recognition of its name and that they can use their name to maintain a bit of unity in a community spread out across LA county and with no main hub (Little Tokyo is only a few blocks across, and, except for Nisei Week, I rarely venture there) and grow online into a hub for the entire southern California JA community, from community centers and martial arts clubs to temples and Boy and Girl Scout troops.
Already, there is a page on the Rafu Web site that tries to compile useful community links and organizations. Rather than going to the Rafu and then pointing users out, the Rafu could become the home for many JA community organizations.
In its most simple form, a Ning group could mean that sports leagues could form a group to upload photos and maintain scores and schedules, JA churches/temples could form a group to keep each other updated of upcoming events and people outside of the southern California (such as myself, in Kansas) could remain connected to all aspects of the community on one Web site.
No, this would not automatically equate to advertising dollars and no, traffic would not immediately start pouring in. It would take a good deal of time and effort to build the community site into something that people check on a regular basis. But I think that it fits in well with the purpose of the Rafu Shimpo, and could be a positive step in any web effort taken by the company.