Chapter 17: Connect It Together (4)
- Arrangements for a helicopter (I hear that only a few exist in Japan for what we need).
- Site selection for a temporary heliport and drop-off site.
- 48x 200-L drums of fuel, transfer pump, and leased generator.
- Power company performed field survey→Risk of landslides still exists, forcing a pause to the work.
- Petition to the Hiroshima Prefecture Emergency Management Agency for repair work.
- Experienced the job of a live reporter today. With the lack of manpower, went to cover the flood-damaged areas of Higashi-Hiroshima City. Borrowed some rain gear and waded out to standby in some thigh-level deep water, which got me a lecture from SoumaP (*A very angry and stern one). He said it was deep enough to kill someone and that I shouldn’t take reckless actions without confirming the safety of the site first. I was only thinking about how to get the best visual for the viewers, and now I see how wrong I was. He also said, “The hassle that comes with idiots getting into trouble by copying what they see on TV far outstrips what can happen on the Internet.” Yeah, I think so too. But wasn’t the anger a bit of an overreaction?
- Restoration of the path up Egesan by the Hiroshima Prefecture Emergency Management Agency and the Hiroshima City Public Works Department (emergency repairs at a minimum).
- The power company reached the site to fix the remaining power lines. It took about 6 hours to complete the temporary restoration of power→This is merely an emergency measure. There is no change to the plan to install the backup generator.
- I’ve gotten used to operating the handicam. It feels completely different from what you can see on a smartphone. And even though we’re shooting the same scenes, there’s a clear difference between the videos that I’ve taken and the ones by professional camera operators. Something about it seems fuzzy or something, like it lacks oomph. It’s similar to cooking. I can use the same ingredients and seasonings, but it won’t necessarily taste the same (or so I think). It’s hard, but it’s fun.
- Work for tomorrow→Bring fuel, generator, and other equipment to the temporary heliport for transport operations on Wednesday. *Pay visits to the local residents in the area (about 30 households) and mail a letter if they aren’t home.
“Hey! What are you looking at!? That’s mine!”
Motoi rushed over to snatch the memo pad from Sakae’s hands.
“It was just laying around in the open.”
“I accidentally forgot about it when I went to film and document the day. Anyway, who normally reads what’s inside!?”
Sakae also had grievances of his own. Motoi had left the damn memo pad on the desk that Sakae had set up as his basecamp for the past several days, and the flimsy little thing didn’t look like a diary or a notebook. Plus, Motoi had been taking notes in it so seriously that the curiosity had gotten the better of him.
“There’s no such thing as privacy in this industry.”
The phone on the desk rang, and Shitara picked it up before Motoi could answer it (Sakae had no intention of answering it from the start).
“Hello? This is the news floor. Good morning… Huh? Well, yes, all right…”
Sakae had no clue what the call was about, but Shitara suddenly frowned.
“Please tell them that there’s nothing to worry about. You can give them the runaround and say that you’re not allowed to divulge any more information due to business reasons. If you keep getting more questions about it, we can discuss how to deal with the situation. I’m sorry for the inconvenience. All right, goodbye.”
Shitara hung up the phone as he sighed and muttered, “Well, this makes things difficult.”
“What happened, sir?”
“The call was from the customer service center,” Shitara answered. “Apparently, they received inquiries asking if it was true that the TV broadcast would be out.”
“There’s supposed to be a rumor circulating around social media.”
“It wasn’t me!”
Motoi gave a flat denial before anything was said.
“Got it, so it was you.”
“It wasn’t! Shitara-san, please believe me.”
“Hey, I know, so calm down, okay? Sakae, cut it out. It’s possible that the other stations have received similar phone calls, so I’ll go check with them. Mimasaka, go find out where the source of the rumor is coming from.”
It didn’t take very long to pinpoint the source of the rumor. It was a video of Egesan thought to be taken from a drone, and it was posted to Twitter that showed landslides and sinkholes in the roads as well as a clear view of the collapsed utility pole.
“Shocking images!! Collapsed utility pole near the Egesan transmission tower! …This is bad news, right? Will people still get TV?”
It was posted the day before yesterday—so before the power line was temporarily restored. As it gradually spread through the Internet, people added comments to the tweet such as “All the TV channels from the prefecture are broadcast from there,” or “It must be running on emergency backup power. It can only last for a few days,” or “If your TV goes out but you still have power in the house, it doesn’t mean that your TV set is faulty!” The comments seemed to be fairly informed, which likely lent the post more credibility, and it received tens of thousands of likes and retweets, while the video received over 100,000 views. Now that it came to this, it was a vicious viral cycle that fed itself. The hashtag #badnewsforTV even trended for a while. Shitara’s fears had been on point, and each of the TV stations within the prefecture had been inundated with the same types of phone calls. Plus, there were phone operators unable to come into work due to the heavy rain, and with the large volumes of calls inquiring about information about disasters in the area, the call center was quickly jammed before noon. The official Twitter account and network email for inquiries were also apparently flooded with the same questions. Even if there were a fair number of gawkers and trolls among them, it was certainly a sticky situation.
“During the evening news, we will touch on the possible broadcast outage as a message to our viewers.”
That was the course of action that was decided as a result of a conference call with the five stations.
“We will coordinate the time slots as well as every single word in the script. No ad libs or tangents will be permitted. The announcer will deliver the brief message on a single bust shot, and then it will go to commercial or to the next segment.”
“That just makes us look more suspicious.”
Sure enough, Motoi raised an objection at the announcement from the News Director.
“It will seem even more unnatural to be lockstep to such a degree. People will think that we’re definitely hiding something.”
“There are no bright ideas for dispelling speculation once rumors get out into the world. It is worthwhile enough to give an explanation.”
The announcement was basically an alibi to cover their own asses that said, We made sure to tell you that there is nothing to worry about. And if you decide to read too much into things, that’s your own prerogative. They could put on faces of apathy because of course everyone knew that this logic was absurd, but whether it truly fulfilled their responsibilities, it was all too common to give vague ambiguous explanations, and no one could speak up about it in the open. Motoi was like a layer of oil on the surface of tepid water as one who did not read the room and accept this bad common practice.
“Tomorrow on Wednesday, if we’re able to successfully hook up the generator, we won’t need to worry about the transmission outage for the time being. If their TVs continue to play, the sense of crisis instigated by the Internet will soon disappear, and everyone will forget about it. That is all we have to say about the subject. We will coordinate the script with each of the stations and post the final version of the script on the news management system. I ask that you please do not tinker with any of the text.”
“How arrogant,” Sakae heard Motoi mutter under his breath.
“The mass media is still under the misconception that only they can open and close the faucet of information. Just how behind the times are they…?”
Motoi quickly walked away from the place. He probably didn’t hear Shitara say, “You’re quite right.”
“And now we would like to make an announcement. Due to the recent torrential rains, there was damage to a portion of the power lines that feeds the transmission tower that services Hiroshima Prefecture. Presently, according to Chuugoku Electric Power, work for the temporary restoration of power has been completed. Please be rest assured that there is no disruption to the terrestrial digital broadcast to your TVs. We will continue to give you the latest and most accurate information about news and emergencies. After the commercial, we will bring you the weather…”
“He’s sleeping on the floor again…”
“He’s an adult. Let him do what he wants.”
Voices came down from over his head. They were probably leaned against the wall where Sakae was sleeping.
God, shut up.
“Will things go well tomorrow, do you think?”
“We’ve made all the preparations. The weather forecast says that it will be clear tomorrow. There’s nothing we can do about the physical work that needs to be done there.”
“Let’s pray that the mission is completed safely and we can return to Tokyo.”
“Yes, sir,” Motoi said, but his reply sounded a little hesitant. If Sakae could sense it, then of course Shitara had noticed it too.
“What’s wrong?” Shitara asked.
“Nothing… We’ve been here for less than a week, but I was able to make friends out here. It was pretty hectic, but I remembered how much fun I had.”
What are you? A grade schooler? Sakae thought, but Shitara reacted with a kind tone of voice.
“Well, that’s great to hear.”
“I met a number of people from around the different stations, and we got to talking and formed a LINE group for all of us to chat… At Asahi TV, I’m always the odd one out because everyone knows about my background. Oh, but I know that it’s wrong to spurn them back and go, ‘Well, I won’t be here for very long anyway.’ People can easily sense that kind of attitude. Maybe that’s why Souma-san was the first person to speak to me without holding back. …Though I still very much take issue with it!”
“Shitara-san, doesn’t he ever make you angry?”
“Well, yeah, of course, he does.”
It was an unequivocal answer.
“But it has nothing to do with the words and attitude that he uses. That’s not what makes me angry.”
“Is that so…?”
Motoi sounded doubtful, but apparently Shitara had no intentions to explain himself any further. He changed the subject and asked, “Do you have another live report tomorrow?”
“Oh, yes, I do. First thing in the morning, by the prefectural road. It might get me some eyerolls to say this, but live reporting is quite a bit of work.”
“Huh? Why is that?”
“There’s the camera checks, the mic checks, the connection checks—I feel like it should be easier somehow.”
“In the worst case scenario, it’s not like they can’t make a smartphone do all of those tasks. It’s getting simpler and simpler all the time.”
Sakae sensed Shitara suddenly chuckle.
“A long time ago… This is before I joined the network, okay? Microwave transmissions used to be pretty common for live field reporting. It was an age when Wi-Fi and such didn’t exist. The limit that reporters could cover was about a 1-kilometer radius from the base station or the broadcast stations. Furthermore, it was ideal to have a direct unobstructed path between the two, so if anyone crossed the path in front of you, the image would start breaking up.”
“Uh, isn’t that incredibly inconvenient? What happens if you want to report from a remote area of the country?”
Shitara answered, “Then humans would have to bring an antenna with them.”
“It sort of looks like an upside-down umbrella. It’s pretty enormous, but that was what was deployed. In extreme cases, for example if you wanted to broadcast live from beyond a mountain, you would need to prepare the necessary number of antennas to be placed along the mountain road and relay the signal—truly a live relay broadcast, isn’t it?”
“It’s unimaginable to me.”
“I haven’t experienced it myself either, so I’m probably not the right person to say this, but I suppose that this job of conveying information to the public had much heavier significance back then than it does now. I think that they had a lot of considerations that they had to worry about. Was broadcasting a live report worth all of that effort? Was it something that they really needed to do? Conversely, they probably experienced a lot of frustrating cases where they couldn’t cover the story live. And of course, as a result of the technological advances, it is wonderful that we can now deliver stable, real-time images to the public. But sometimes I wonder—how would things have been like if I had done this job 20 years earlier? I might have held some of those same arrogant misconceptions like you have pointed out, Mimasaka.”
“I don’t think that you would have been like that, Shitara-san.”
“You hear about people working these high-pressure jobs all the time, feeling a sense of duty and responsibility, but before they realize it, it gets turned into a sense of invincibility and entitlement.”
There was no reaction from Motoi. The silence seemed to say that he was mulling over Shitara’s words in his own way. Even though Sakae couldn’t see so.
Sakae sat up abruptly. The newspaper that was under his body made a rustling sound, and Motoi nearly jumped with a start.
“Are you awake, milord?” Shitara asked.
“Don’t carry a damn conversation next to a sleeping person.”
“Well, sir, I question why the person has to sleep in a place where the people around him have to cater to his needs!”
“Shut up. …More importantly, I just thought of something good.”
Sakae got to his feet, balled up the newspaper, and threw it at Motoi.
“Can’t you throw it away yourself, sir?”
“You’re someone who’s on loan from another company.”
“Huh?” Motoi shot him a suspicious look. “What are you saying after all this time?”
“On top of that, you’re the son of a powerful figure.”
“Seriously, please stop saying that.”
“So even if you used some slightly underhanded methods and get caught, it’s not like you’ll get into too much trouble for it. Right?”
“Huh? Uh, please hold on. What are you talking about?”
“I’m right, aren’t I? I’ve gotta be.”
“Wait, wait, wait… What are you trying to get me to do?”
Motoi slowly retreated in apprehension, but he immediately ran into Shitara. Shitara gave a gentle pat to his shoulder and grinned at him.
“Give it up,” Shitara said. “Once he gets a brilliant idea, nothing can stop him.”
Even though it’s your job to do so in the first place.