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LA's oldest Japanese paper, Rafu Shimpo, warns of closure after a century




Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo first started publishing in 1903. The paper's offices are still in Little Tokyo.
Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo first started publishing in 1903. The paper's offices are still in Little Tokyo.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo first started publishing in 1903. The paper's offices are still in Little Tokyo.
Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo in Little Tokyo used hand-set type until the 1990s.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo first started publishing in 1903. The paper's offices are still in Little Tokyo.
Photos printed for Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo's 90th anniversary are on display inside their Little Tokyo office on Tuesday afternoon, May 17, 2016.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo first started publishing in 1903. The paper's offices are still in Little Tokyo.
Rafu Shimpo in Little Tokyo prints newspapers in both Japanese and English. The only time the paper stopped printing in it's 113-year history was during World War II, when staffers were sent to internment camps.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo first started publishing in 1903. The paper's offices are still in Little Tokyo.
Staff photographer Mario Reyes shot this image of a National Guard Soldier in Little Tokyo during the Los Angeles riots. It is on display inside Rafu Shimpo's office on Tuesday, May 27, 2016.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo first started publishing in 1903. The paper's offices are still in Little Tokyo.
Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo in Little Tokyo was originally founded by three USC students from Japan more than a century ago.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo first started publishing in 1903. The paper's offices are still in Little Tokyo.
Archives of Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo from 1939 to 191 are stored inside their Little Tokyo office on Tuesday afternoon, May 17, 2016.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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For more than a century, Rafu Shimpo has been the leading paper for the Japanese community in Los Angeles, operating through landmark moments in history and surviving closure during World War II. But the paper, founded in 1903, is in danger of shutting down by the end of the year, say publishers who blame declining subscribers and mounting costs.

But they are taking steps they hope will turn things around, including launching a Twitter campaign to broaden the paper's appeal to new readers and marshaling support online with the hashtag campaign #OurHistoryYourRafu.

Michael Komai is publisher of Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo in Little Tokyo. Komai's family has run the paper for generations.
Michael Komai is publisher of Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo in Little Tokyo. Komai's family has run the paper for generations.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

"The only time the paper wasn't printing was when it was forced to close during World War II," said Gwen Muranaka, English editor in chief at Rafu Shimpo. During that time, its publisher and staff were sent to internment camps, like many in the Japanese American community, she said.

Today, in order to stay open, said Muranaka, the paper will have to broaden its appeal to the younger generation of Japanese Americans, many of whom have moved away from the cultural and historical center of Little Tokyo.

"The challenge is to find these folks and to create content this is really going to resonate with them," said Muranaka. "I think it's going to be a little different than what we've been doing in the past."

Gwen Muranaka has been English editor at Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo in Little Tokyo since 2001.
Gwen Muranaka has been English editor at Japanese-English language newspaper Rafu Shimpo in Little Tokyo since 2001.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC

The loss of Rafu Shimpu, and other ethnic media outlets like it, could be a big loss for ethnic communities, said Odette Alcazaren-Keeley with New America Media.

"It's the ethnic small businesses that are the lifeline, the lifeblood of ethnic media and it's a synergy," said Alcazaren-Keeley. "Ethnic media also provide that life support and sustain and expand the growth of ethnic small businesses."