Sunday, November 25, 2007

What you say on a shakuhachi forum doesn't (necessarily) stay on a shakuhachi forum

Who is taking your postings seriously on blogs like this and online forums like Shakuhachi Forum? Do real newspaper 'journalists' scan the Internet for stories and source material and publish that material without double-checking their sources? No, you say? How could professional journalists do something so irresponsible?... It happened very recently and it has implications for all of us who want to encourage the growth of shakuhachi culture worldwide.

The untimely passing of Los Angeles shakuhachi master Yoshizawa Masakazu-sensei (aka Masakazu Yoshizawa, "Masa") prompted several sincere, heartfelt postings on, as you would expect. It marked a tragic loss to Japanese traditional music.

One of the posts made an incorrect attribution that Masa (as Yoshizawa Masakazu-sensei is commonly known) was the shakuhachi artist on the 1980 miniseries/movie Shogun. Actually the artist who made those recordings was a man 4-years Yoshizawa-sensei's junior by the name of Kazu Matsui It's a fairly common error and the Shogun minseries/movie VHS and DVDs are out of print, etc. etc. Kazu Matsui is also frequently written in English as "Matsui Kazu." You can see the difficulty.

However if you are a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and your articles are syndicated throughout the Tribune news network (Chicago Tribune, Newsday, Baltimore Sun and many more, not to mention 23 television stations nationwide and the Associated Press which places your work in thousands of newspapers and Web sites) you may want to fact check the source material which you obviously got from one place, which was the topic thread on Shakuhachi Forum.

In her own defense —which is unverifiable itself— the journalist said she got her information from "two sources." Perhaps for the whole article. But from the way she wrote the obituary it was obvious to me that she relied on the forum thread for the "Shogun" misattribution. She also lifted a portion of one of my own idiosyncratic descriptions of the late shakuhachi teacher, which would be flattering under any other circumstance. But it was just plain sloppy journalism. Hence, because it was published so widely her article is now credited as a source on Wikipedia's biography of Yoshizawa— for what? The "Shogun" misattribution, of course.

Masa didn't need to be credited in the official media for work he didn't do. He was a man of his own extensive and easily credited accomplishments. If you want to read a really good journalistic profile of Yoshizawa Masakazu go to this Cultural News article from 2005:

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