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First Women’s Tabloid in Japan Seems Unlikely To Forge New Ground

November 26, 1990

TOKYO (AP) _ With a shocking-pink picture of Tokyo’s skyline gracing its front page, Japan’s first newspaper designed for women - Lady Kong - hit the newsstands today with lots of fluff but little feminism.

As with virtually all enterprises here, men run the daily tabloid, leading some critics to complain that the publication is not likely to challenge the subservient role of women in Japanese society.

″Everything, even sanitary napkins, has been planned and produced by men,″ said Harueko Kato, a communications professor at Tokyo Women’s Christian University. ″And news coverage is not an exception.″

The tabloid’s name refers to King Kong’s girlfriend. The name apparently is meant to show that women are strong, too.

Kato believes the most important aspect of the new daily newspaper will be ″how the opinions of the female employees are reflected in the decision- making and news writing.″

That will depend to a large extent on Masahiro Oshima, the 41-year-old man who is the tabloid’s editorial director.

Twenty-seven of the 47 editors and reporters on his staff are women, but they are in charge of only the entertainment and city guide sections.

The company specifically recruited male writers to work in the news department, Oshima explained, ″to give news stories a serious tone.″

Despite the radical image the tabloid is cultivating with its odd name and its advertisements suggesting greater independence for women, there appears to be little emphasis on feminism and social issues.

The leading headline on the splashy front page was a call for Tokyo’s commuter trains to extend operations a few hours each night to 2 a.m. for the benefit of people who stay out late drinking and dancing.

The rest of the 80-cent newspaper, which describes itself in English as a ″newsy tabloid for Tokyoites,″ reads like a typical fashion magazine with a few pages of news slapped onto the front.

The first edition included a series of interviews with female business executives, as well as a soft-porn story titled ″Honest Legs,″ gossip items and entertainment news.

Oshima says he had wanted to carry more features on social issues, but a six-month marketing research program led him to reduce stories on politics, business, women’s issues and the environment.

″Japanese women are not ready for such a progressive paper ... I was quite disappointed to discover that,″ he said in a recent interview at his office.

To achieve its daily circulation goal of 350,000, Lady Kong largely reflects the editorial content of the many popular women’s magazines already flooding the market with heavy doses of fashion, cooking and new products.

The tabloid says it also is trying to attract female readers by using stain-free print that does not rub off. Young Japanese women often complain that ink from the regular broadsheet newspapers dirties their hands and expensive designer dresses.

One kiosk in central Tokyo carried a few dozen issues of Lady Kong along hundreds of existing tabloids that aim exclusively at a male readership - heavy with sports coverage and female nudes.

Lady Kong is a joint venture between a Japanese publisher and a British brokerage. Investors include Orient Co., the nation’s leading finance company.

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