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Nikkei West: Stories from the Local Community

NCM Profile

NCM, Julie Johnson Posted: Jul 02, 2003

When a Japanese American police officer in San Jose won a Lexus, he may not have made headlines in the San Jose Mercury News, but on Japanese market newsstands throughout Northern California, his story was on the front page of Nikkei West.

Jeffrey Kimoto, Editor-in-Chief of Nikkei West

In 1992, founder and Editor-In-Chief Jeffrey Kimoto was working as the business manager of a Porsche dealership in Sacramento when at age 32 he decided to start a publication.

Kimoto had long thought that there was an untapped readership for the Japanese American press: the younger monolingual English-speaking Americans of Japanese descent. With no formal journalism training and less than $300 out of his own pocket, Kimoto started Nikkei West.

Begun as a small 8 page tabloid, the newspaper connects Northern California's disperse yet close knit Japanese American community. Its focus on stories like the lucky police officer takes precedence over more distant stories.

Kimoto was raised by second generation Japanese parents. Like many sansei (third generation), Kimoto spoke English at home and his family was not in contact with any distant relatives back in Japan. Kimoto says that those who don't have ties to Japan don't read Japan-focused papers in which much of the news is in Japanese.

"Honestly, most Japanese Americans couldn't care less about the Emperor," Kimoto said.
Kimoto tries to give particular focus to communities like the South Bay, outside of high profile areas that get a lot of coverage.

In addition to a corps of dedicated freelance writers and contributors, Kimoto is Nikkei West's Editor-in-Chief, business manager, production manager, copy editor and designer—it's a one-man show. "It gives me a lot of freedom to mold the paper into exactly what I want." Kimoto has made a point to be innovative and always looking to the younger generations.

"I put a lot of emphasis on sports, something so many kids are involved in, plus, parents and grandparents want to read about the kids," he said.

Nikkei West was the first Japanese American newspaper to go online in 1993. "I knew that older generations would be reluctant to use the internet, but the younger generations would take off with it."

Today, Nikkei West remains the only all-English Japanese American newspaper in Northern California.

With the internet, Nikkei's readership spans wider than its subscription base. However, perhaps the most significant factor in Nikkei's success is how the paper is passed on from person to person. "One of our papers could go through 6 or even 8 hands. Sometimes I get a subscription form off a paper a few years old that has been passed on through families and friends. Our kind of news doesn't get old."

So when Kimoto's friend caught a 6 pound trout while fishing on Bear River Reservoir, his photo could be found on Nikkei West's front page. "I put him on the front because people want to see people they know. It may not be newsworthy to big papers, but it's news to us."

Nikkei West is online at www.nikkeiwest.com.

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