Shiro Hara was a crusading city news editor who devoted his life to exposing social injustice through his journalistic campaigns in the national daily, Yomiuri Shimbun. His efforts led to Yomiuri becoming one of the largest circulation newspapers in the world and famed for its city news pages. He also made a lasting contribution to the Japanese press by training many excellent reporters and editors and by helping to establish the Japan National Press Club.
Born in Gifu Prefecture on February 15, 1908, Hara joined Yomiuri Shimbun in 1936, after graduating from Hosei University. With his excellent news sense and his extensive experience in journalism, Hara soon became the leading city editor of his day. He reported from China as a war correspondent during World War II and directed Yomiuri’s coverage of the Japanese Peace Treaty in San Francisco.
Soon after he was named editor of Yomiuri’s city news department, Hara launched several campaigns to clean up the underworld in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. Corruption blossomed in Japan as the country’s economy moved from post-war turmoil to the boom years. Despite threats and harassment by criminal elements, Hara exposed links between local police and gang bosses, criticised the Tokyo metropolitan government and police for their inability to deal with the chaotic situation, and successfully prompted the superintendent general of the metropolitan police to admit responsibility and take the necessary steps to clean up the city.
Hara also started a campaign warning readers of the dangers of nuclear testing. He scored an international scoop with the story of a fishing vessel exposed to radioactivity during the United States’ testing of atomic weapons on Bikini Atoll. He used the heavily read city news pages to run stories about nuclear issues in order to reach a wider range of readers. Beginning in January 1954, Hara produced an influential series supporting the peaceful use of nuclear power, while also pointing out its potential dangers.
Under Hara, Yomiuri Shimbun’s city news department built up a team of brilliant young reporters. Hara’s ability to seize on each journalist’s individual strengths and skills and use them to maximum effect helped to increase the newspaper’s circulation and earned him and his news pages a devoted readership and widespread respect, even among rival papers.
Hara, who died on his 81st birthday on February 15, 1989, was also instrumental in establishing the Nippon Kisha Club (Japan National Press Club), the only press club of national scale in Japan, in November 1969, and served as its first chairman.