Denson Tribune (newspaper)


Publication Name Denson Tribune
Camp Jerome
Start of Publication March 2, 1943
End of Publication June 6, 1944
Predecessor Denson Communique
Mode of Production mimeographed
Staff Members Editors-Eddie Shimano, Paul Yokota, Harry Shiramizu, Joe Oyama, Asami Oyama, City Editor-Richard Itanaga, Feature Editor-Ayako Noguchi, Reporters/staff members-John Hirohata, Toki Ohta, Seico Hanashiro, Ben Matsumoto, Harry Kuwada, Aiko Ikeguchi, Lily Ozaki, Eunice Yokota, Florence Sayegusa, Fay Sakata. Humi Hanashiro, Fumi Hanashiro, Jane Kitahara, Toshiko Namba, Rosie Arima, Lucy Hirohita, Nobuo Shino, Michiye Tanaka, Tsuru Hirami, and Hiroshi Doi, Production Manager-Roy Kawamoto, Mimeograph Operator-Herky Yamagiwa, Duplication Staff-Checkers Mieko Onishi, Lily Masada, and Lucy Kubo

The Denson Communique (October 23, 1942 to February 26, 1943) and Tribune (March 2, 1943 to June 6, 1944) was the newspaper at the Jerome, Arkansas, concentration camp. It was the shortest running of all the camp newspapers, since Jerome was the last camp to open and the first camp to close.

Background and Staffing[edit]

The War Relocation Authority camp newspapers kept incarcerated Nikkei informed of a variety of information, including administrative announcements, orders, events, vital statistics, news from other camps, and other necessary information concerning daily life in the camps. (See Newspapers in camp.) Story coverage was comparable to what one might typically expect of a small town newspaper, with nearly identical coverage in all ten camps of social events, religious activities (both Buddhist and Christian), school activities and sports, crimes and accidents, in addition to regular posts concerning WRA rules and regulations. Nearly every paper included diagrams and maps of the camp layouts and geographical overviews to allow residents to get a bearing of their locations; payroll announcements, instructions on obtaining work leaves and classified ads for work opportunities; lost and found items; and some editorial column that was reflective of its Japanese American staff editor. Reporters and editors were classified as skilled and professional workers respectively and received monthly payments. The wage scale was set at $12 or $16 a month for assistants and reporters and $19 for top editors, although no labor was compulsory. All ten camps had both English and Japanese language newspapers. Despite its democratic appearance, the camp newspapers in reality were hardly a "free" press. All newspapers were subject to some sort of editorial interference, in some cases even overt censorship, and camp authority retained the power to "supervise" newspapers and even to suspend them in the event that they were judged to have disregarded certain responsibilities enumerated in WRA policy. [1]

The Denson Communique newspaper began publication on October 23, 1942, less than a month after the Jerome War Relocation Center in Arkansas was established. It was originally led by Eddie Shimano, (who held a bachelor's degree from Cornell College), Paul Yokota, and Joe and Asami Oyama, all of whom were from Los Angeles. Its maiden issue was a two-page three-column bulletin in English, and the paper eventually established a regular schedule of publication every Tuesday and Friday out of an editorial office located at 36-11-F. Although the Communique was a War Relocation Authority project, the administration felt confident enough in its editors to permit the publication of the Denson Jiho, a Japanese supplement to the Communique and the Tribune that made its debut on December 8, 1942, in a two-page, five-column format. The Jiho staff consisted of Iwao Kodama, Harry Hinotoshi, and George Shigeyasu.

With the opening of the Denson Elementary School and Kindergarten in Block 23 in January 1943, the newspaper offices were relocated to the administration building. Editor Shimano of the Communique left in early March 1943 for resettlement in New York City and Paul Yokota, who was a 1941 honors journalism student from USC and had previously worked as news editor for the Santa Anita Assembly Center's newsletter, was appointed the new editor. Yokota served at the helm as editor of the Tribune from March 2, 1943, to October 22, 1943. In four-column makeup, it contained eight pages of English news, articles and items and two pages of Japanese translations. Under his tenure, the paper was renamed the Denson Tribune after an enthusiastic campaign, "What do you want the Jerome newspaper to be named? We want a name with a jolt, a jiving title that our journal will live up to, for our paper will be one that will give the jingle, jangle, jingles to other relocation center papers." The Tribune also benefited from overall consistency by having only two editors. Following Yokota's tenure as editor was Harry Shiramizu, a Hawai'i born, University of Hawaii political science graduate with fourteen years of newspaper experience,[2] who led the staff from November 1943 to June 6, 1944.

Coverage Highlights[edit]

The overall tone of the paper was optimistic and relied heavily on the breezy lingo popular with Nisei and the American vernacular of the time. The paper ran chatty, personal columns like "Pot Pourri" by Ayaki Noguchi, "Sports Squints" by Seico Hanashiro, "At Random" by Paul Yokota, "How 'bout That" by Toki Ohta, "The Crowd Roars" by John Hirohata, and "Here and There" with Richard Itanaga. Comic strips featuring a young Nisei kid nicknamed "Denny" (a play on Denson) relaying humorous episodes of camp life and current events were penned by Roy Kawamoto.

The Denson Tribune editorialized on controversial matters inside and outside the concentration camp with few restraints and frequently returned to the subject of the gradual demoralization of the spirit due to incarceration, urging inmates to relocate as quickly as was legally possible. Also frequently noted in the Tribune was the need to clear the swamps of first-growth forests in order to level, drain, and cultivate the land for agriculture. Calls for able-bodied men went out for wood cutting, timber felling, loading, mule driving and wood processing, with the center using up to 150 cords of wood a day between breakfast and bedtime for cooking and heating. Arkansas clay proved to be an excellent medium for ceramics and pottery, as cheerfully noted in articles such as "If Mud Sticks to Your Shoes, Its Good!," exclaiming the artistic use of clay to make ashtrays, figurines and pottery based artwork, which one resident named Joseph D. Sasaki dubbed "Densonware." The surrounding swamps also bred swarms of insects, which were reported both humorously, as rumors spread of Arkansas mosquitos being large enough to fry and eat like tempura; and as a health risk, as malaria victims were reported in the summers. Rattlesnakes were also in abundance, and as was common in all ten WRA camps, residents couldn't resist capturing and caging wild animals. In one unusual instance, nearly forty specimen of snakes were exhibited by one resident, while other related snake stories reported people killing and eating snakes to supplement mess hall fare.

More hard-hitting articles included coverage of Arkansas Governor Homer Adkins' initial reluctance to permit Japanese in the two camps (Jerome and Rohwer) to work outside the center. "In my opinion it would be inadvisable and unwise to assign Japanese to your project or to any other project other than the two Japanese relocation camps where they are constantly under military guard and under no consideration can I alter my position in this matter, "Adkins said in a telegram to government contractors working on nearby Norfolk dam, although they were desperate for laborers. Also of great controversy was the publication of an article from the Arkansas Gazette raising the issue by state health officer, W.B. Grayson, who questioned whether physicians practicing in the Japanese colonies delivering babies and signing birth certificates were licensed to do so in the state of Arkansas, calling into question the babies' American citizenship. Gambling, juvenile delinquency and even suicide was reported in the Tribune, although the majority of the news covered were personal interest stories and carefully adhered to a pro-American editorial stance.

Towards the latter part of summer of 1943, WRA officials began the task of separating loyal inmates from those whose loyalty was in doubt. The transfer of residents to Tule Lake began in September and much news and editorial space was devoted to the exodus, including several editorials lamenting the separation and the incarceration in general.[3] Jerome residents who chose to repatriate or expatriate to Japan boarded the "segregation train" bound for the Tule Lake Segregation Center while large numbers of former residents at Tule Lake arrived and were absorbed into Jerome's existing population.

On February 22, 1944, the Tribune and Jiho issued a special two-page "extra bulletin," one page in English and one in Japanese, carrying Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes' announcement that the Jerome War Relocation Center would close in June, 1944.

The Denson Tribune had the shortest run of the WRA camp newspapers, since it was the last camp to open and the first camp to close. Its last issue was on June 6, 1944.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

For More Information[edit]

Friedlander, Jay. "Journalism Behind Barbed Wire, 1942-1944: An Arkansas Relocation Center Newspaper." Journalism Quarterly 62.2 (Summer 1985): 243-46.

Howard, John. Concentration Camps on the Home Front: Japanese Americans in the House of Jim Crow. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008.

Mizuno, Takeya. "The Creation of the 'Free' Press in Japanese American Camps: The War Relocation Authority's Planning and Making of the Camp Newspaper Policy." Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 78 (Autumn 2001): 503-518.

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Takeya Mizuno, "The Creation of the 'Free Press' in Japanese American Camps" Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 78.3 (2001), 514.
  2. Jay Friedlander, "Journalism Behind Barbed Wire, 1942-1944: An Arkansas Relocation Center Newspaper," Journalism Quarterly, 62.2, Summer 1985, 243-46.
  3. Friedlander, "Journalism Behind Barbed Wire."