Gila News-Courier (newspaper)


Publication Name Gila News-Courier
Camp Gila River
Start of Publication September 12, 1942
End of Publication September 5, 1945
Successor Gila Bulletin
Mode of Production Mimeographed
Staff Members Because the News-Courier did not contain mastheads and article were often unsigned, this is a very partial listing of staff. Editor in chief-Ken Tashiro, Charles Kikuchi, June Sato, Alice Sumida, Clifford Kikuo, Art editor- Alice Uchiyama, Cartoonist-Ted Ito, Japanese section-Kenzo Ogasawara

The Gila News-Courier (September 12, 1942 to September 5, 1945) was the main publication of the Gila River camp, and one of the last of the ten War Relocation Authority camp newspapers to begin regular production and distribution. The News-Courier alternated from publishing every Wednesday and Saturday in its earliest weeks, to every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, out of the Canal News office located in Rec Hall 8. It was distributed free of charge to every barrack room.

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 editor of the News-Courier, Ken Tashiro, was a Nisei who was unique in the fact that he was born in New England, but retained a speaking knowledge of Japanese only after graduation from high school.[2] Unlike most other WRA camp newspapers, the Gila News-Courier did not run a regular masthead of newspaper staff, nor did reporters regularly sign their columns and other articles. Line drawings and illustrations of the desolate landscape populated by barracks and canals, snakes and tarantulas, and lone inmates struggling in the wind, were frequently used to illustrate the News-Courier, and contributed by artists Alice Uchiyama and George Matsura. Ted Ito was the staff cartoonist, and the creator of the News-Courier's mascot, "Little Gus."

With the October 10, 1942 issue, the first Japanese language supplement appeared. Within a few weeks, the ongoing Japanese portion grew to as many as five pages, and was edited by Kenzo Ogasawara. However, in March 1943, in accordance with an administrative decree, the Japanese section was ordered to only carry translations of the articles in the English section; original stories written by Japanese newspaper staff would no longer be permitted.

Issei/Nisei Conflict[edit]

Due to their American citizenship and their fluency in English, camp administration usually felt that the Nisei were the preferred liaison and spokesperson for the Gila population, a fact that may appear benign on the surface, but one that had serious impact on both the inner skirmishes for power between Issei and Nisei leadership, and ultimately, with the camp newspaper's agenda. Editor Tashiro was a principal leader of Gila River's Butte Camp Japanese American Citizens League and a close associate with Larry Tajiri, editor of the JACL's official organ, the Pacific Citizen, which further aligned the News-Courier with government cooperation.[3] According to News-Courier contributor Charles Kikuchi, who served on the JACL board of governors at Gila, Tashiro's editorial policy pushed the Americanization program "as much as possible" and followed "the JACL policy of cooperation with the administration."[4] The JACL went as far as to "seek to dispel unfounded rumors which have tended to breed distrust in our national organization and pit Issei against Nisei, father against son" in half-page editorials that occasionally appeared in the News-Courier. Despite internal politics, the News-Courier seemed to cover Issei and Kibei related issues to a greater extent than other camp papers.

For the News-Courier's maiden issue released on September 12, 1942, it is clear from its news coverage that camp life has already settling into routines, having opened on July 20, 1942. Many of the center's services such as the canteen, sports activities, religious services, adult education classes were already well established, and that others, such as the elementary and high schools and the community council were well into its initial stages as the latest arrivals from Turlock (detention facility) |Turlock]] Assembly Center brought the center's population up to 11,550.

A myriad of problems plaguing the camp in November of 1942—for instance, living quarters were inadequate, stoves had not arrived, the food lacked quality, clothing allowances were short, and toilet and washing facilities were abominable. Disaffected Issei leaders believed that these problems should be receiving the attention of the camp newspaper, rather than such divisive and inflammatory items as the camouflage net factory, army language school, and the JACL. Amidst stories of Queen coronations and the opening of a new camp hospital, throughout Fall 1942, there are articles mentioning petty crimes and mild violence ranging from thefts, gambling, drinking, and assault.

On the evening of November 30, 1942, Community Activities Section supervisor Takeo Tada was severely battered about the head and left arm with ironwood clubs wielded by five other inmates. The story of Tada's beating was not reported in the News-Courier until December 5, 1942, when it announced that Acting Project Director Robert Cozzens would investigate by studying testimonies and reports on the cause and method of the alleged attack. The December 9th editorial was dedicated to "Poston, Manzanar, and Gila Too: We Are Being Sold Down the River by A Few..." addressing the "riots of disorder" that started "with a ganging and a slugging. The guilty few have shipped the less thinking... the gutless among us to fall in line with their devilish though and disorderliness." It warned Gila residents "we must never forget that the American people will judge us by the way we conduct ourselves in these camps." (See Poston Strike and Manzanar Riot/Uprising.)

As the new year began, an editorial was published on January 14, 1943, "The Destructive Critics," claiming criticism and rumors as responsible "for a large share of lack of progress in the center," and that "despite the fact that the Nisei are children of the issei, and the two, it would seem, should work as a unit, the two groups have had considerable friction. The kibei group have not harmonized too well with the CAS [Community Activities Section, responsible for social events in camp] which is accused of being run by the Nisei for the interest of the Nisei." The editorial explains that the "upshot of the whole deal is that the administration has been very reluctant to give too much authority to the evacuee administered CAS," although it also recognized that camp administration itself is not blameless. Outspoken pieces from the News-Courier such as these revealed the frustration felt by Nisei and the continued inner politics of camp leadership by those who yearned to earn the trust of the government.

Resettlement and Shutting Down[edit]

News of Nisei eligibility for the army earned its own special extra issue on January 29, 1943. The News-Courier published the War Department release and pronouncements by WRA director Dillon S. Myer in their entirety, but in English only. The following day included a birthday greeting for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and an editorial signed by "J.N." extolling the significance of January 28, 1943, as a day that "opened new vistas of hope to lack-luster eyes."

On March 4, 1943, Gila and Poston and much of Arizona's restricted zone became a free zone, as army lifted restrictions on Japanese. Although the lifting of this restriction was reported as a triumph for Japanese Americans, the News-Courier was careful to remind residents that inmates could not yet move into town, shop, work or move about freely, and the ban on radios and cameras was not lifted. However, former residents of Arizona were permitted to return to their homes and businesses. Camp administration, WRA officials, and even the first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt traveled to Gila to urge residents to resettle as quickly as possible.

By mid-spring 1943, the tempo of resettlement accelerated as more and more residents left Gila for jobs, school, and the armed forces. Employment was offered regularly in the pages of the News-Courier in predominately Midwestern cities such as Cleveland, Chicago, Louisville with articles meant to entice residents to leave such as "Seeking Students Preferring West," "Curtiss Candy Company Asks for More Workers," "Seabrook Seeks Single Workers," and "New York Resettlement Aid Discussed." According to the paper, most returnees successfully resettled with little problem, and in cases of violence or anti-Japanese attacks on returnees and resettlers were deplored. The Spring/Summer of 1944 was dominated by stories of the celebrated 442/100th in such headlines as "Induction: Six More Gilans Receive Orders" and "Nisei Combat Unit Receives Special Citation for Valor."

By late July, 1945, signs of the camps closing were obvious with all classrooms closed, dairy and cattle herd auctioned off, and departing bus schedules accelerated. Even details on the proper procedure for shipping dogs were outlined in the paper for residents who had accumulated pets during their years at Gila. Frequent updates on the accommodation capacities for hostels in the Midwest and California were listed, along with success stories of those who had already begun the process of relocating.

Those left on the News-Courier staff to write "30" in their last issue on September 5, 1945 were Yosh Hazama, Squeeky Hotta, George Ikedo, Billy Matsuda, May Mikamo, Mas Minami, Tom Hakaoke, William Nakatani, Min Sakaguchi, and Wat Takeshita, and the Japanese section members were Yoriyuki Sato, Daite Suzuki, Morigusu Kumamoto, and Seiichi Norie. The two-page Japanese supplement ultimately outlived the Courier, continuing for several additional editions after the final English edition hit the stands. In total, the Gila News-Courier ran for almost exactly three years, before the paper was changed to the Gila Bulletin, which ran from September 8–28, 1945, running basic announcements related to relocation and work opportunities and the closing of public services.

Authored by Patricia Wakida

Footnotes[edit]

  1. Takeya Mizuno, "The Creation of the 'Free Press' in Japanese American Camps" Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly 78.3 (2001), 514.
  2. "Gila River: A History of Relocation at the Gila River Relocation Center," The Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, 1945. Chapter Six, http://www.oac.cdlib.org/view?docId=kt8j49n9pt;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=d0e1886&toc.depth=1&toc.id=d0e1886&brand=oac4
  3. Arthur Hansen, "Cultural Politics in the Gila River Relocation Center 1942-1943,"Arizona and the West 27.4 (Winter, 1985), 327-362. http://www.jstor.org/stable/40169480
  4. Charles Kikuchi, "Developments on the Gila Newspaper," (November 17, 1942), Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.