Giant Robot and the Rafu Shimpo

Thanks Rafu Shimpo Newspaper once again for the generosity to cover my being heralded as a "Neighborhood Hero" by Councilmember Mike Bonin. It's definitely undeserved, but I can endure the "hero" jokes that happen once in a while, and the online "Likes" by some of my peers or classmates from way back. What's for certain is that since the Rafu Shimpo spotlight on GR about 20 years ago, the paper has been consistently supportive. 

I'm trying to trace back our history. I may have had my name written up for getting a hit or two in childhood baseball game write-ups a few times. It's one reason why parents of elementary school aged athletes buy multiple copies. That tiny bit of name recognition is special. A proud parent can't know if that small mention will lead to a floodgate of ink and pixels, or if that's it - the only press in a lifetime. Ultimately, it doesn't matter. But in the moment, it may.

I've had my fair share of press for Giant Robot and other projects. I think that early Rafu coverage perhaps in 1996 for GR was when I first felt support from "my own people." The underdog project of Giant Robot was born into an audience of misfits, yet got the "nod" from a paper that was approaching 100 years of printing. Every step of the way since, the Rafu Shimpo has been there. 

When Giant Robot ceased publication, their support never waned. Today, the Rafu Shimpo is in the same situation I faced. Is it time to shut it down? Is the market too small for the project? Has the audience moved on? 

Giant Robot magazine continued until the economy of print wasn't there for us. Online magazines continue to prove to be a tough way to go. How many online magazines do you read and pay for? That belief of "things will get better" grips strong and that's where the Rafu seems to be. 

The Rafu, established in 1903 has a much longer history and serves a community that's rapidly changing. From my days of playing Japanese American league baseball, most of those kids have moved elsewhere and married non-Japanese Americans and have kids who are more American than Japanese American. In fact, the old practice of parents sharing the print Rafu Shimpo with their kids has probably slowed. Are my peers subscribing to the Rafu and sharing it with their kids? I'm guessing that percentage is tiny. 

So this leads back to the question of should the Rafu continue? The idea to make it back relies on an online subscription drive. 10,000 online subscriptions at $50 is needed before the end of the year. As of April, in an LA Times article, "The Rafu currently has a print circulation of about 7,800, down from a peak of 23,000 subscribers in the late 1980s. Its online subscriptions total about 800." I'm sure with their current drive, it's gone up.

Even with all of the odds against the paper, yes it should continue. In what form? Could it work with a new format? New content? New everything? Would "we" want a Rafu that none of us recognize? It can continue the same for a while longer, but eventually it'll need a massive revamp which is tough to do. It'll take an entire new outlook. I wish them the best in succeeding.

Donate to the Rafu here by Subscribing online

To hear a radio spot on the Rafu's situation click here.

Here's their entire help site. It doesn't include just the online subscriptions.