Existentialism and Smokestack Industry in Nippon
Kawasaki Media Tour
May 22–29, 2007
Wild Card Editor’s Note-
National politics are both sport and livelihood for the residents of Washington, D.C. Periodically we have elections but since most of the residents of the country are either ignorant (vote on bad information) or apathetic (don’t vote) few career politicians are ever displaced from their offices for their actions. This allows politicians to vote based on their donor base interests and not on their constituent’s interests. Periodically the sheer shamelessness of the process is exposed in the more egregious cases (see: Abramoff, DeLay, Jefferson) but for the most part your country is run by professional lobbyist trading campaign money for favors.
Although there are a few toothless laws that regulate the activities, one of the time honored activities is known as the “junket”. Junkets are often called “fact finding” trips which involve a fair amount of golf in exotic locations.
Perhaps more insidious to the apathetic and listless American public is the “Movie Junket” where film critics are selectively vetted by studios in return for favorable reviews of the films. I mean, it's one thing if your elected representatives decide to forego oversight of the country’s food, energy, water, banking, healthcare, credit cards or real estate but what if you waste 90 minutes seeing ‘Driven’ because some guy got a plane ticket and hotel room to come see the movie?
In the enthusiast press this can be even more insidious. Many magazines are owned by large corporations that depend on massive amounts of advertising dollars to make their numbers. Subscribers do not buy advertisements and researching articles costs a lot of money so the logical business move is to use manufacture money to provide content (trips, bike reviews, press launches,etc) all in such a manner so as not to offend the same companies in order to keep the flow of advertising dollars flowing.
All those bike reviews I write for the magazine are mostly based on press launches where all expenses (sometime lavish, sometimes basic) have been covered by the manufacturer. At least in those circumstances my mission is a little more straightforward. I show up, I ride the bike, get some pictures, try, to the best of my abilities, to convey what the bike is like, and then leave it to the comparison tests to sort out the relative ranking. As a bonus, I know that if I write something that is off message for the manufacturer it is Editor Ulrich who will have to face the irate delegation from the OEM and not me; a moment of schadenfreude in its own right.
In the past fifteen years of writing for RW I have only been on two straight junkets. The first was a Japan goodwill tour by Honda and now, a second by Kawasaki. These trips do offer an opportunity to learn, research and write in more depth than a simple press launch but if you see a lot of coverage about Kawasaki the company and many of the same pictures (for the most part we were not allowed use of our own cameras) appearing in multiple magazines and websites over the next couple months.
With that conscience assuaging disclosure I can now relate some of what I learned about Kawasaki Heavy Industries limited.
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