Dear Edmonton Journal

by Christopher Macdonald,
Given the huge popularity of anime and manga throughout North America, it's hard to believe that we still have to deal with the occasional reputable newspaper getting everything completely and utterly wrong.

When I started with Anime News Network in May 2000, mainstream news coverage of anime was rare enough that when it did happen, we'd report it as news. Even if the article in question wasn't particularly interesting for our readers, we posted about it because it was interesting to see that anime was starting to get wide exposure.

Five years later anime is the subject of hundreds of articles a month in mainstream newspapers. Most of these articles are still written by outsiders, for outsiders, people who don't know a whole lot about anime. But the journalists know enough, and do the required research to present a relatively accurate article that will be interesting to their readers. It's rare to find a newspaper article with glaring mistakes about anime.

This morning I found one in the Edmonton Journal. You can read it too if you want. If you want to read an accurate report of the same events, the Edmonton Sun got it right.

For years, porn has been the black-eye on the face of anime in North America. Fans accept that anime is a medium that covers multiple genres. Just like the existence of Debbie Does Dallas 101 doesn't ruin the appeal of Friends, Night Shift Nurses doesn't ruin the appeal of Samurai Champloo.

Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. They are shocked by the existence of animated pornography, and it gets a lot worse when they learn that animated child porn is also a part of anime.

This is where the press comes in; people like us, people like the New York Times, people like the Edmonton Journal. The job of the press is to inform its readers. Of course, the Times and the Journal have no responsibility to go out and tell their readers about anime, but should they chose to cover an anime related story, it is their responsibility to make sure that they do not misinform their readers.

In the article I linked to above, the Edmonton Journal states, "Gordon Chin pleaded guilty in provincial court today to importing thousands of pages of a Japanese cartoon called Anime featuring characters that look like Pokémon and Astro Boy engaging in explicit sex acts. " The statement of course is wrong on several levels. What was imported was not anime, it was manga. Whats more, while the statement doesn't explicitly state that all anime is pornographic, there's no question that is the implication that it gives.

That isn't the worst of it though. The closing paragraph of the article states, "Anime is illegal in Canada but not illegal in Japan and the United States." This statement is patently false. Anime isn't illegal in Canada. Manga isn't illegal in Canada. Pornographic anime and manga aren't illegal in Canada. Child porn, whether it is animated or live, Japanese, American, Swedish or Canadian is almost always illegal in Canada[1].

You might not think this is a big deal, but actually it is. That statement will hurt anime fans and companies in Canada. While anime and manga have become extremely popular in North America, many people still know next to nothing about it. And for them, when they read that statement they'll believe it. They'll believe that all anime is child porn and that all anime is illegal in Canada. They won't look very kindly on anything anime related and it may take them years to learn the truth.

Given that the Edmonton Journal not only implied something false, but also made a patently false statement, a statement that besmirches the reputation of an entire industry, I think they owe it to their readers to issue some sort of retraction or apology. I also think that they need to review their quality control measures, if this kind of mistake can make it into the paper, what other terms are they getting completely wrong?

If you want to write the Edmonton Journal to get them to print a retractions, you can contact them here. I humbly suggest that you be polite when contacting them.

1: Child porn created for personal, non-commercial use is not illegal in Canada. This includes virtual child-porn where the person in possession of the material is the creator as well as actual child-porn where the person in possession of the material is (one of) the person(s) recorded and no illegal activity (ie: statutory rape) takes place in the recording or image(s).

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