Chicks On Anime
A Chat With Our News Editor

by B. Dong, S. Pocock, Jun 30th 2009

About the contributors:

Bamboo is the managing editor for ANN, and writes the column Shelf Life.
Sara is an animator who's also released her own independent short film.

Some readers may have noticed that ANN operates around the clock. Entertainment news doesn't stop, so we don't either. We all have Egan Loo to thank for that, our tireless news editor who's responsible for all the news you read every day. He found some time to sit down and talk with us.


Bamboo: What some of the readers at ANN might not know is that every time they read the news, they're primarily reading the work of one man. Joining us today is Egan Loo, our news editor. He's responsible for posting the bulk of the news on the main page every day. Egan, can you tell us a bit about your job, and what an average day looks like for you?

Egan My job is basically not sleeping. Seriously, the average day has me awake, if not always coherent, at all hours of the day, culling news from multiple time zones. By its very nature, anime news occurs during the morning hours in New York, followed by late-breaking news in Los Angeles in the afternoon, continuing when Tokyo wakes up, and starting all over again. For at least 15-18 hours a day, I'm reading emailed news tips, following feeds of RSS and every other acronym invented, and occasionally, talking to live people on the phone for confirmations. Fortunately, with WiFi and mobile phone Internet access, I can still post news when I'm going out. It's nothing glamorous on most days—just me in front of the laptop or pecking away at a phone screen. However, meeting people at cons, going to film festivals, or catching premieres makes it worthwhile.
Sara: Wow, that's... that's kind of insane. I had no idea you kept such crazy hours.
Egan Yes. Sometimes I look back at the time stamps of a day's news on ANN, especially during con season, and I realize that I must have slept no more than three hours at a time.
Bamboo: That is really intense. I wasn't even aware how time-consuming your job was, but that makes sense. Do you follow all the Japanese news feeds, too?

Egan I try to follow as many Japanese news feeds as possible—no one mortal can follow them all. A lot of the work is not as much reading the latest news (or gossip, as it often is) and being the first to post, but chasing down leads to make sure that the "news" is actually news, and not something to post and then retract later.
Bamboo: How do you decide what's newsworthy or not?

Egan For ANN, it's newsworthy if it's 1) verifiable, 2) relatively without precedent and 3) anime- or manga-related. Too much of the Japanese media—like entertainment media in other countries—is repeating what another source has said without verifying. Fortunately, verifying can be as simple as picking up a phone, firing off an email, or just buying the magazine that supposedly has the scoop. Our general rule of thumb: if we have to put "rumor," "gossip" or a question mark in the headline, it shouldn't be a headline.

Second, we try to post about happenings that are relatively without precedent. We try not to post about the umpteenth volume of a manga or the latest episode available of an anime, unless what happens in the story or the production is unusual. Third, for ANN, it has to be anime- or manga-related in some way. I read Bryan Lee O'Malley's works and follow the Iranian elections (and so should you!), but we won't post on ANN about them unless there is an anime/manga hook. For example, if O'Malley is on Shojo Beat's cover.

Sara: It's kind of a coincidence you bring up Iran, because your job description reminded me of some of the great liveblogs following the post-election rallies. Nico Pitney's in particular is probably the best source of information out there right now.
Egan Exactly. What's going on with the Iranian elections demonstrates that there is no news cycle—people's lives aren't going to follow a tidy 9-to-5 work schedule. Fortunately, ANN is just entertainment news—we occasionally deal with freedom-of-speech issues, but rarely life-or-death stakes. (It's the reason I'm not a doctor!) But the principles still apply.
Sara: News has always been the most valuable when it's as up-to-date as possible. With new technology bringing us so much information from networking sites and liveblogs, in addition to news feeds and other forms of more traditional media, do you feel like it's a challenge to keep ANN's news page on top of current events?
Egan Absolutely. Before ANN, I wrote and edited for print magazines. There's nothing like the feeling you get when you spent days researching a piece of groundbreaking news, and it goes to print a month later—after the news gets scooped by someone online "who knows a guy." But that's the nature of the beast, and we can't fight that—we just have to embrace the changes.

That means following mixi, MySpace, Twitter, and whatever new two-syllable trademarkable flavor-of-the-month comes along. Because many news stories will break that way. If anything, that makes our job even more crucial. Anyone can write anything online, but not everyone is making sure that what they write is actually news.

Bamboo: Do you miss writing for print? Scrambling to be the first to post something online first has got to be really hectic.

Egan Sometimes – having more than three minutes to copy-edit sounds like bliss now! But then I remember that when I edited for print, I had to drive one-hour-plus to the office in the city. I'll take posting at 2:30AM over braving rush-hour traffic any day.
Bamboo: Speaking of anime-related news, in the past, we've run a lot of very detailed stories about the market, or on legal cases. Do you have any prior experience in these fields, or have you had to learn much of this on the job?

Egan Any financial or legal experience? Nothing beyond what I might have absorbed during college. Fortunately, I do have experience working at anime and manga companies, so financial knowledge related to the industry was relatively easy to pick up. The tough part is the legal matters—especially the differences between Japan and the United States. Many people, even those who've been to Japan, are still surprised to hear that Japan does not have a law yet to prosecute people who download illegal stuff at home. Fortunately, I grew up with some people who now practice law in America and Japan, so I have people I can pepper with questions if needed.
Bamboo: But there have been high-profile instances where Japanese citizens have been arrested for uploading anime, right?

Egan Yep—and in one famous case, a person who was arrested and convicted not for uploading anime, but for programming software for uploading files. The government didn't even have to prove that the Winny software was used exclusively for illegal material for Isamu Kaneko, a university researcher, to be arrested and convicted with a US$15,000 fine.
Bamboo: It's interesting, then, that there isn't a law in place to punish people who download anime. I guess that makes sense, because technically, it's the distribution of material that's illegal, isn't it? Not so much the consumption of.

Egan Yep, but that will change by New Year's Day. The Japanese parliament has now passed a law that will make unauthorized downloading illegal. There's two catches though—the law does not set any punishment, and streaming is not covered. The law is toothless and obsolete before it even hits the books.
Bamboo: Regarding what you said earlier about calling for confirmations, when you contact companies for quotes and information, have you found any differences between dealing with Japanese and American companies?

Egan Hmm....not that much actually. If you reach the right person, companies in both countries are open to talking with press. About the only difference is some Japanese companies used to expect to read the coverage for approval before posting. At least for news coverage, ANN declines to allow that.
Sara: Wait, doesn't that go against free press laws?
Egan It's not illegal per se, but it definitely obscures the boundaries that press should have as an independent entity. For better or worse, much of the Japanese press, like the entertainment press in other countries, serves as a mouthpiece for the industry. Some sources still don't print negative reviews, for example.
Bamboo: So how do you work around that?

Egan We simply, and politely, say that's not how we operate, and ask that this condition is removed before talking.
Bamboo: And they agree?
Egan Well, the vast majority of the Japanese companies are now ok with dealing with ANN the same way that most North American companies do.
Sara: Speaking of what gets printed, considering that you're only human, there must be mistakes that make it to ANN's news page every now and again. I notice that although misinformation is corrected, ANN's original posts are still available for viewing if the reader chooses. Is this a morally-grounded decision, as opposed to obliterating the bad news and pretending it didn't happen?
Egan Absolutely. It's why Dan [DeLorme] implemented a system that documents all changes in our articles. One issue that many online new sources have is they can, and do, silently change articles without any notification. With print, the readers have a personal copy that the news source can't alter after the fact. Online, readers have to hope that they, or Google, or the Internet Archive, saved a copy. On ANN, any changes made to an article after it's posted is recorded for public view. You can even see how an article looked like before it was edited. We're still human, but this system keeps us accountable and gives readers some assurance. I just wish more online news sources—and not just for anime news—used such a system. Then, we can all rely more on their coverage.
Sara: Oh, I was also going to ask how many bogus tips and rumors you get every day.
Egan Too many—not that I'm complaining, though. Half the fun of this job is the detective work to figure out what's legit. For example, some of our tips come from the 2channel forum in Japan. Anyone can post anonymously on 2channel, and there have been some very convincing fake info posted there—complete with images expertly manipulated in Photoshop. It's not just the anonymous email tips and forum posts though. Occasionally, a person we know will tell ANN something that is not factual, until we point out we know otherwise.
Bamboo: Sounds like a tough job, but you're doing an amazing job! Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to talk with us!

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