Lack of Respect for Expertise in Taiwan

Lack of Respect for Expertise in Taiwan
Photo Credit:自由娛樂頻道截圖
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By Chen Min-li

Japanese drama king, Takuya Kimura’s, first visit to Taiwan should have been a major event for Japanophiles. But on the evening he landed, a female anchor’s inappropriate usage of Japanese completely changed the focus.

There were interpreters at the scene, but the newscaster chose to ignore them and converse with the actor in Japanese. Representing the Taiwanese media, the news anchor asked Kimura if he was happy in Japanese that could only used among the same generation. She neglected the fact that they were in public and the actor hadn’t given her permission to dismiss proper Japanese when speaking to him.

After the event, the newscaster stated on her own public fan page that she was an admirer of Kimura, and not only did she have physical contact with the actor, but also proudly asked him questions in Japanese.

Just by watching the live broadcast I knew she would cause uproar.

Putting aside her flaws in Japanese, more importantly, she represents Taiwan’s media. Each country has their regulations on media. This also applies to their entertainment industry.

Japanese entertainment firms generally have a lot of rules. Johnny & Associates, Inc is notorious for being fussy. I once had the opportunity to sit in an interview with a Japanese idol and witnessed the standard operating procedure (SOP) of the firm.

First of all, the television station that would be broadcasting the interview must send the questions to the firm beforehand. After both sides confirm the questions, revise, discuss and reach a decision, no changes will be allowed.

On the day of the interview, the Japanese firms will ask the reporters to arrive early to walk them through the interview and reconfirm the questions. But there are Taiwanese media that will still want to make alterations, completely ignoring the terms they previously agreed on. If the firms refuse, the media will say they are arrogant and unreasonable.

But this is how Japanese firms protect their artists. Think about it this way; you arrive at someplace unfamiliar (even if it’s in your own country) without having any knowledge of the local media industry. In order to make sure your artist doesn’t say something inappropriate, you rehearse as many times as possible to present the artist’s best side.
How is this wrong? Isn’t it just being professional? You pay attention to details and do your best in the parts you can control.

This may seem conservative and inflexible, but didn’t the Japanese make the world believe their country stands for high quality through this mindset?

Moreover, this procedure is a compromise of both sides. A sudden refusal to abide the rules might be taken as breaking the contract. If this was Japan, even the local media might be asked to leave immediately and the interview would be canceled.

All of the above appears to be restricting the freedom of interviewing. But this usually happens when reporters ask for exclusive interviews or ones that have a public relation purpose. If the news story is about a scandal, like exposing an affair, then the consensus mentioned above naturally doesn’t apply.

Reporters aren’t puppets of public relation firms. Retaining the freedom of asking questions is reasonable. Though Taiwan doesn’t have as many rules as Japan, most news channels use the entertainment section as a practice field for newcomers because it is easier, scheduled and has a fixed procedure.

Back to Kimura’s visit to Taiwan.

The Japanese actor’s visit was clearly not a publicity tour. When an artist of Johnny & Associates, Inc. arrives, they usually only let the media take photos at the airport. But if they allow interviews, it must be the result of the moderator’s negotiation. Watching the news, it’s obvious the media outlets came to an agreement that only four reporters could hold up their microphones. According to reports by ETtoday, Kimura only answered three questions that night. Three questions out of the many media outlets present. Who was the actor supposed to listen to? There’s a high possibility it was also arranged beforehand.

After talking to a friend who was at the airport that day, I learned that it was prearranged which harmless questions would be asked so every reporter could go home happy. If the rules of the game were established in advance, why was the female anchor allowed to ask her own questions?

This isn’t a problem of whether or not the newscaster’s Japanese is good enough, but how she ignored the rules of the game and the profession of the other side. By doing so, the news anchor also humiliated the reporters that followed the regulations. The newscaster represents Cti News, but in the eyes of the Japanese firm, she speaks for the Taiwanese media. This is a major complication. Who will be responsible if the Taiwanese media is declined interviews with Japanese artists in the future?

Up to this point, do you still think this is a trivial matter?

Some of the people who defend the news anchor say, “It’s good enough she was willing to speak to a foreigner in his language," and, “Why does she have to use proper Japanese? It’s not like she majors in Japanese," and, “Have people considered the possibility she was forced to go to the interview? She probably isn’t familiar with Japanese or maybe doesn’t even know how to speak it." So is the incident that serious?

Again, the news anchor’s contempt for the rules was already unprofessional. There were translators present that day, but she ignored their expertise. It was unprofessional of Cti News if the news channel forced her to speak in Japanese when she didn’t know how to, but why does the entire Taiwanese media industry have to take the fall for them? Luckily all this happened in the entertainment industry. What if a reporter steps way over the line and leads to a diplomatic crisis?

I live overseas and often see Taiwanese people use, “It’s not that serious," to tell themselves it’s all right to be careless sometimes. But they forget if everyone is inconsiderate, then the foreigners that come into contact with these people might think all Taiwanese are as nonchalant.

The reputation of a culture is built bit by bit. Maybe even the Taiwanese think many of their friends are too reckless sometimes. Everything can be roughly done and there’s always room for adjustments and flexibility. The occasional sloppiness isn’t that serious. But doesn’t the insistence of certain rules accumulate to expertise?

Foreign friends have complained to me that the Taiwanese tend to stray away from standard operation procedures. They don’t understand the meaning of procedures and like to change what was already discussed over the phone instead of putting it down on paper. This complicates things. A Hong Kongese even discussed this disorder on the Internet. I scoffed at their obstinacy back then, but now I realize not complying with the rules? is one of the main things holding us back from progressing.

We put too much emphasis on being flexible and ignore regulations, so we never know what our professions are.

Taking things further, wasn’t the water park explosion also caused by lack of expertise?

Lu Zhong-ji subcontracted the colored powder to local factories instead of purchasing it overseas. The factories unprofessionally used cornstarch and didn’t add any potassium alum or other fire resistant material to it. The water park provided a venue, but it didn’t go through the business proposal closely enough to see if there was potential danger. Also, the event was held by a group of young adults that wanted to party but didn’t have the money. The staff didn’t enforce the prohibition of smoking or other safety regulations at the venue. It is only when a tragedy occurs do we grieve, but we still don’t contemplate whether it could be prevented if we were more attentive in our expertise.

There are too many similar examples. If we still show contempt towards professions, this won’t be the last time this kind of catastrophe blows up.

Looking at it this way, do you still think the whole Kimura incident merely has to do with not speaking good Japanese?

Translated by Olivia Yang