Chapter 11: Open It Up (11)
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.
It was past 5 in the afternoon when a commotion sounded from somewhere in the news bureau.
“It was posted on the Internet that Yamato TV’s My Document had conducted their interviews inappropriately.”
“Wow, it’s true. It’s the top story on Yahoo.”
“What’s the source?”
“Yamato TV’s website and official Twitter.”
“A person involved in the inappropriate conduct of interviews has come forward and is now under investigation… It doesn’t really say anything else though.”
“The website for My Document is gone too. That’s fast.”
“So what episode did it happen? What was so inappropriate about it?”
“They probably staged the interviews or something.”
“Or exchanged sexual favors? Or paid bribes? Or went somewhere where cameras are prohibited?”
Miyoshi had made his move just as he said he would. Sakae had expected this to happen, but he didn’t know if Miyoshi had fessed up to everything or how much Yamato TV intended to reveal.
“Shitara-san, what should we do?” the news desk asked, seeking his opinion. “I think we can put it in as an initial news brief.”
“The lack of information is concerning though. The only images we have are what Yamato TV has provided and the screenshot of the webpage… Hmm, maybe we’ll include it as a flash news item for now. Probably at the end, since it’s fine if it’s cut. Yamato TV might put out some more information about it before we go to air, so please make sure to keep an eye out for it.”
Shitara didn’t appear particularly disturbed by the news. Maybe he thought that the person involved wasn’t necessarily Miyoshi. When Shitara raised his head from the computer, their eyes met.
“What is it, Sakae?”
“Nothing… No wait, correct that.”
“I want to talk to you after the broadcast today.”
Shitara gave a casual nod at the unusual request, and Sakae couldn’t get a read on him. Uh, but it wasn’t like there was a need to get a read on him. Sakae just wanted to give him the information that he obtained.
In the end, no new information came out from Yamato TV during the broadcast, and due to time constraints, they didn’t air the clip that they had prepared for the news brief. After the review meeting finished and people had mostly left the room, Sakae stood up without much of a signal and Shitara followed after him.
“So, where do you want to talk?”
“The editing suite.”
First, Sakae showed him the footage from the afternoon since it was the fastest way to explain things. Shitara sat in a chair with his chin propped on one hand and watched the video of Miyoshi with a slightly sleepy expression.
“—I will not answer any questions that have nothing to do with the facts of the matter.”
Sakae stopped the video there and looked over at Shitara next to him to gauge his reaction.
Those were the first words out of his mouth.
“But it’s not that unusual to have to throw out stories for a show because management decided that it was in the best interest of the sponsors or because your interview subjects die… I wonder if he became emotionally invested when he was overseas.”
It was a distant and unconcerned comment— But no, that wasn’t it. Shitara understood it all too well. Just how precarious a tightrope they walked day in and day out in order to put a show on the air. He felt like he might fall himself—that was why his words seemed to push Miyoshi away who had fallen so easily. Sakae could see Shitara reacting the same way if Sakae had committed the same mistake, but it didn’t particularly hurt him. In fact, it was what he wanted.
“So, I don’t know how any of this came to be. Could you explain it to me from the beginning?”
“The main host of our show was the one to tip me off to the lead.”
Sakae told him from start to finish about how Asou first came to him and how he flew to New York.
“So this video is the direct result of your investigation. Were you able to confirm Miyoshi’s remarks?”
“I’ve asked for the names of the NGO and his contact there. Megumi is following up on them, but I don’t think that he’s lying. It doesn’t make sense to lie about such a small point.”
“Well, that’s true.”
“What do you think Yamato TV will do next?” Sakae asked.
“They’ll buy some time with the investigation, and if they’re going to make an announcement or hold a press conference about it, it will probably be Friday night, after all the news programs have aired.”
People always paid less attention to the news on the weekend, and after the freshness wore off, it would become less of a highlight at the start of the new week. It was a common PR move. And it wasn’t like the TV news shows would report on it extensively either.
“Why didn’t you air this footage today?”
Shitara turned his chair so that he was facing Sakae. The room was cramped, and his knees knocked into him.
“Because there’s something I want to try.”
“And what’s that?”
Sakae explained his plan, and Shitara went “Hmm~” as he crossed his arms and closed his eyes.
“I wonder if it’s possible~ I wonder what management would say~”
“It’s your decision to make here. If the producer gives the green light to go, then no one can do a thing to stop us.”
It would be much more catastrophic if they were to barge onto the broadcast just to interrupt them.
“Are you trying to egg me on?”
“Quit it with the fake acting.”
There was a flame of expectation that burned in Shitara’s eyes when he opened them. Shitara was even more excited than him, Sakae would say.
Don’t worry, I’ll make you think, ‘I’m really no match for you.’
“…But even so, what if I don’t want to volunteer to be yelled at?”
“It’s your job. Suck it up.”
“And what happens if I’m sanctioned within the network?”
“You could always quit. But don’t go causing me any trouble,” Sakae said.
In his own way, this was his response to Shitara’s statement to use him as a stepping stone for Sakae to trample over.
“Just quit and start over at a production company somewhere. I’ll bring you on as a contractor. You can be the oldest AD in the industry. It’d be hilarious. Your salary will be a tenth of what you make now, but do your best.”
Shitara looked down at the floor for a while and laughed.
“…Everything you say is so cruel.”
“But you look pretty happy about it.”
“Well, there’s nothing I can do but laugh.”
However, when Shitara lifted his head, he was no longer laughing.
“All right,” he said quietly. “Do what you think is best, Sakae.”
The next day at the review meeting, they had a simple discussion about the mistakes made during the broadcast and areas that needed improvement, and then the broadcast director in charge of the meeting asked, “Is there anything else that anyone wants to discuss?” It was normally the preface before they chimed, Thanks for the great work, everyone, and wrapped up the meeting, so Sakae raised his hand and all eyes landed on him restlessly.
“There will be another meeting after this. Everyone is to attend except the technical staff and performers.”
The glances that people exchanged became even more restless—Another meeting? So suddenly? Why?
“Sorry for the sudden notice, folks. It’s not required that you attend, but I would like to see as many of you there as possible. We plan to ask the reporters who write the stories and scripts to attend too,” Shitara added as a supplement to Sakae’s announcement.
Someone asked, “Where is the meeting?”
Where? Oh, right, I should’ve reserved a room for it.
Sakae stared at Shin silently, and he immediately reacted.
“Oh! I’ll go secure the auditorium! Would it be okay to meet there in about 30 minutes?”
“Bring 3 cameras and tripods too.”
“All right, so there you have it. We’ll adjourn this meeting for now. Thank you for your hard work, everyone. I hope to see you again in 30 minutes~”
When the meeting adjourned after Sakae had sown the seeds of unease and speculation within the staff, Shitara said to him in disbelief, “Reserve the room yourself beforehand at least.”
“I don’t know how to.”
“You’ve been spoiled for all this time…” Shitara said with an affected sigh, and Sakae snapped at him, “Shut up.”
Sakae entered the auditorium exactly on time, and the attendance rate was nearly 100 percent with stiff expressions on each of the faces. Well, yeah, it was never good news whenever there was a sudden notice to assemble for a meeting. Sakae couldn’t even imagine the reactions of the staff members to what he was about to do. He connected his laptop to the projector, lowered the screen, and ordered the AD near the entrance to turn off the lights. Then without any introduction or preamble, Sakae played the same video for the room that he had shown Shitara.
“…Huh, what is this?”
“Hey, it’s Miyoshi-san from Yamato TV.”
“So it really was staged footage…”
“How did we get this on the record?”
The quiet, sporadic voices that popped up here and there became less and less frequent as the video went on, and by the time that it ended, the room fell completely silent.
The auditorium lit up at Sakae’s instruction, and everyone looked awkward and uncomfortable around the room.
“As you can see, this video was taken when I went to get a comment from the executive producer Miyoshi Shunji about the allegations of staged footage at Yamato TV.”
“I heard that Miyoshi-san hasn’t been into work,” one of the directors said.
“I heard from someone I know at Yamato TV that yesterday he reported the issue of the staged footage himself and submitted his letter of resignation.”
If that was the case, then did he plan to run away and speak about it as little as possible? Did he report to the management everything that he had told Sakae? Maybe Miyoshi didn’t take him seriously and thought that he would never air the interview. Or maybe it was a challenge, to air the thing if he dared to. Not to Sakae, but to Shitara.
“I took this footage yesterday afternoon.”
“Huh…? Then why didn’t we air it yesterday or today? Did you decide to pass on the story because the issue was too complicated to manage?”
“We’re airing the story,” Sakae declared. “But I decided to pass on it yesterday.”
People raised their voices in confusion and doubt.
“I’m sorry, I’m not quite sure that I understand,” some other director remarked. “If not yesterday or today, then when will you air it? When Yamato TV makes an official statement about it? But wouldn’t it be too late then? People in the industry are already saying that footage was staged, and the viewers also seem to suspect that it’s the case. If there’s something that we know, then we should get the crux of the information out as soon as possible. What we have becomes useless if Miyoshi-san tells this information to anyone else.”
Heads nodded all around the room. Most people seemed to have the same opinion.
“I see,” Sakae said. “By the way, have any of you here ever staged footage that you’ve worked on before?”
Everyone was probably scared stiff by the question except for Shitara. Of course, no one would raise their hand and answer, Me.
“Okay, everyone put your heads down.”
Shitara interrupted, “Hey, we’re not searching for a lunch money thief in a schoolroom here.”
“Um, is there a purpose for that question?” someone asked. “If we can’t report on the story because one of us might have done the same thing, then shouldn’t you have gone for them first?”
“That’s not why I asked the question.”
Sakae stood up. He couldn’t seem to get his point across. But it was only natural though. Because for the longest time he had shut down the people around him, told them that they wasted his time with their worthless complaints—and that had worked for him just fine. But that was then. Sakae was in a new place now, and he would make new choices here.
“But I can’t say that you’re completely wrong either. …I’m sure that when you watched the video, everyone thought, ‘That could be me.’ You probably even thought of a thing or two that you did. Maybe you’re not down in the muck, but I’m sure that no one in this room is completely clean either. It’s important to find new stories, get a fresh spin on them, and make the deadlines, but if we get too wrapped up in those things, we can easily lose our way. When it comes to breaking news, we’ve lost to the Internet ages ago. I’m not—and we’re not Internet professionals. We’re TV professionals. And that’s why I want to do my job here as a professional.”
Sakae pointed to the cameras that had been left on the table.
“I’m going to roll the cameras now. They’ll be fixed around the room, and we’ll pass around the handheld. I’ll re-edit the video with Miyoshi to include the new footage, and that’s the one that we’ll air.”
“Please hold on a second. You’re going to film this meeting?”
“That’s right. Because we’re the ones covering the story, but at the same time, we’re also a party to the issues at hand here. It’s a very orthodox practice to include comments and opinions from other people in the industry, right? So voice your thoughts and opinions. I’ve already considered the fact that people will suspect that this is all staged too.”
The truth that contained a lie that contained a truth that contained a—it was an endless nest of boxes that they lived within. Was this the fate of the medium of television in itself? Or was this the sin of the people involved in it?
“I’ll think of a way to present this so that it’s not just a defense of our own in the industry, and it’s not just a hostile attack on it either— …Actually, no, I want everyone here to think about it together. How we want to do this.”
Although there were plenty of wrong answers, there was also no right answer. And that was precisely why they had to come up with one anyway. Because they knew this.
No one said a word. The room became loaded with silence, and Sakae went to set up the cameras. He didn’t care if the answer was silence. Because it was the simple truth. The simple reality.
“Your names won’t appear in the video, but in exchange, I’m not censoring out any of your faces. If you don’t like it, then you can leave right now.”
Shin got up from his seat and approached Sakae.
“I’ll help you, sir. Should I set the tripods at the entrance and the back of the room?”
The only sounds that could be heard were the preparations of the tripods and the other equipment.
“I’m all done here, sir. I can take the handicam for now.”
The cameras started rolling without anyone voicing their approval or disapproval. Sakae wondered how well the cameras captured the doubt and hesitation of the room. He closed his eyes to help alleviate the pressure just even a little.
It’s fine if people want to be silent, but come on, someone say something. Tell me what you’re thinking.
Sakae counted in this head.
One, two, three, four, five…
After 13 seconds, someone spoke up.
“There was a salamander.”
Sakae opened his eyes and frowned. The voice came from right next to him, and he didn’t have to look to know who had spoken.
“…It had to be you?”
“Is there a problem with it?” Shitara said in a breezy tone of voice, one that didn’t sink into the grave and heavy mood.
“Well, whatever. What about the salamander?”
“Hmmm, I guess it happened almost 20 years ago? We were shooting a TV special about the environment at Kamo River in Kyoto, and we really needed footage of the Japanese giant salamander, but there weren’t any around. It’s really hard when you’re dealing with animals and things, you know~? So there weren’t any spare shooting days, and we were approaching the time limit… In the end, we put out some bait for it.”
“Isn’t it a protected species?”
“Well, in our defense, we wanted to catch some sweetfish. But oh, look, a giant salamander just happened to come bite at the bait that we put out for the sweetfish. Perfect, let’s go film it~”
“Hey,” someone commented. “Shitara-san, I’m pretty sure that was over the line.”
“But it was a real wild salamander though? It’s not like we got one from a university somewhere and put it out in the river just to film it.”
The lack of shame in his attitude was premeditated. Sure enough, people around the room started to raise objections.
“That was totally staged. Totally staged.”
“You’re under arrest~”
“It’s past the statute of limitations~ Sakae, make sure you cut this part out.”
“Hey, and now you’re using your power to protect yourself.”
The mood relaxed and broke open. Sakae clenched his fists under the table and thought, Yes, now we’re moving. A second voice spoke up before the mood could stiffen again. Surprisingly, the person was a young AD.
“Um… I don’t know if you can call it staged, but… The first time I was brought along to a shoot was a field project for a variety show. It was called, The Life in a Day of a Rookie Tour Guide! When we were there, the director told the senior tour guide who was supposed to be the mentor to please get angry and be strict with the rookies. And that he should only praise them for the first time at the last day of the training.”
“Yeah, it happens.”
“It really does. But I understand it now that this thing happens all the time. But back then, I guess you could say, I was a little taken aback by it? I kind of wondered how it was different from acting. I remember that the field director told me, ‘Even if it’s a field piece, it’s a production. Everything that happens on the video hinges on the directions that I issue.’”
On the variety shows, comedians would ham it up with their over-exaggerated reactions. If they had to walk over an acupressure foot mat, they would scream or writhe in agony more than they truly experienced. And people didn’t care if the ‘extra-hot bath’ used for the punishment games wasn’t literally extra hot. Because it fell within the acceptable limits of what was expected to be produced.
“Well, you know…”
“Once you start thinking about it, the list becomes endless.”
“But somewhere along the way, you’ll go ‘Yeah, this is okay’ or ‘Oh, this is still fine,’ and you become numb to what’s actually right and wrong. Then little by little, things start to go off the rails somehow. And only when it’s too late do you realize how unacceptable it was. And when you look back at it from a more objective point of view, you’re like ‘Huh? Why did I ever think that it was okay?’ …It’s scary to think that you can lose your sense of good judgement without ever realizing it.”
“The word ‘production’ is a pretty convenient term after all.”
“Yeah, even Yamato TV will add a single line on the screen that says, ‘This is a re-enactment of real-life events,’ and call it a day.”
“People can say that it’s not a documentary… But even documentaries are produced and edited to tell a specific story.”
“In the news division, it’s so natural to pick out the shots of big roaring flames for a story about a fire. But if you’re at the site, there are cases where the fire is actually pretty trivial despite the images.”
“It’s only natural to want the shots that show the emotional extremes. Otherwise, there’s no point in airing them on TV.”
“Lately, I really feel like we’re just strangling ourselves with these issues. The viewers’ distrust of the media is at an all time high, and if we’re regulated, we’ll just find a way to slip past the regulations, which becomes another scandal, and our image goes down the gutter again.”
“Even now, the fact that there are cameras rolling makes this something not really ‘real.’”
“Uh, aren’t you venturing into the realm of philosophy with that comment?”
Strangely enough, Sakae could see everyone’s faces clearly, and they each made their way into his consciousness. Did something open up inside of Sakae? Or did Sakae open something up himself? As long as the ball got rolling, anyone regardless of their age or position could contribute to the discussion. And that was because this was Shitara’s show, the one that he created. Sakae felt like for the very first time that he truly experienced what it felt like to work together with his colleagues.
—–Translated by daydrop. Please read on the original site at daydrop.nowaki.net.