Bringing Japan to the world
Anyone living overseas who has tuned into NHK World TV has no doubt seen “Newsline” presenter Eugene Otani. Available only to overseas viewers, “Newsline” is a 15-minute bulletin presented from a quarter to each hour throughout the day by Otani and other anchors. “News is an exciting business. I am always watching TV news, or surfing the Internet and reading as many newspapers as possible,” says Otani, 44, after wrapping up a program one night at NHK.
Born and raised in Kobe, Otani went to the Canadian Academy before going to college in Oregon where he graduated in international politics and Russian studies. His first job was back in Japan, selling ads for Recruit magazine. After awhile, Otani returned to Portland to set up his own real estate company.
“But the bubble burst and we no longer had Japanese investors, so I went to Portland Broadcasting School and took news reading and radio DJ classes,” he recalls. “I decided to send my demo tape to Japanese radio stations to see how they would respond. I cold-called several stations and FM Osaka said they were looking for someone just like me. They flew me back to Japan. That was 1990. I did a program called ‘Eugene’s Boombox’ for 28 months.”
Otani’s high point in radio came while he was with KISS FM in Kobe. In the aftermath of the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, he got to the station and broadcast a live bilingual news program for 50 hours straight. After that, he had stints at Inter FM, and was a reporter at Bloomberg Television for 7 ½ years before joining NHK in 2007. Besides “Newsline,” Otani anchors “Asia 7 Days,” a Sunday night program that examines the diverse social structures, political systems and economies of Asia.
Otani finds the corporate culture at NHK very different. “Bloomberg, for example, was very aggressive to get the latest breaking news and scoops,” he says. “NHK represents in a way, Japan. It is very careful of what it broadcasts overseas. They take a lot of time in their interviews to provide an in-depth look at what the news is about. I have been pleasantly surprised that they listen to my input. We get a lot of viewer responses, most of it positive. A lot of people are very appreciative of the news coverage we do.”
From Monday, NHK World became a 24-hour English news channel. “Newsline” is also available on the Internet. “There’s no doubt that technology is changing the industry,” Otani says. “The scary thing about the Internet is that there is a lot of false information on a number of sites and it can become very confusing about what to believe. The way news is presented is changing, too. In Japan, news isn’t read so much anymore by anchors. The anchor only does the leads and it turns into a video with a ghost narrator doing the voiceover.”
Always looking to improve, Otani says he is his own strongest critic. “When you first listen to your own voice, you don’t want to hear it. You have to get over that. There is always room for improvement in delivery, the amount of vocabulary you use, how fast you read and how to sound convincing,” he says.
He starts his day around 9 a.m. at the pool. “I usually ride my bike to NHK about midday. Most of the afternoon, I am working on ‘Newsline.’ After I finish, I cruise over to the ‘Asia 7 Days’ team to see how they are doing. We brainstorm ideas for guest sound bites and so on.”
When he’s not working, Otani is a surfing enthusiast. “No, make that an addict. I go surfing in Chiba any chance I get, even in winter or if it’s raining.”
Check http://www.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/ for broadcast schedules for Newsline and Asia 7 days.