Historic Resource Study/Special History Study
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Despite the declining morale in the Manzanar camp and its worsening public relations with Owens Valley residents, the new WRA staff began to assemble at the center during early June 1942. Although construction of the camp was not complete, the many facets of its operation, elements of which had first begun under the WCCA in March, slowly developed throughout the remainder of 1942.

Reports Division

The Reports Division at Manzanar, which evolved out of the "Information Service," was the first administrative unit to be developed at any assembly or reception center during the evacuation program under the WCCA. [17] The first evacuees arrived at Manzanar on March 21 in two busses containing 84 people. In this group were two former newspapermen who had been, respectively, the assistant editor and the English section editor of a daily Los Angeles Japanese newspaper. The day following their arrival, the two men offered their services to the Project Director, recommending that they set up an information booth where all incoming evacuees could get instructions and information and where administrative notices could be posted. The plan was accepted by Project Manager Triggs and on March 23 Manzanar's Information Service was established.

Earlier on March 15, 1942, Robert Brown, executive secretary of the Inyo-Mono Associates, was appointed as Public Information Officer for Manzanar. His duties included public relations with the small communities in Inyo County as well as the dissemination of information within the camp. Thus, supervision of the Information Service became his responsibility.

Manzanar Free Press. As evacuees began pouring into Manzanar in late March and early April, the need arose for some means of disseminating information throughout the center in addition to the efforts of the Public Information Office. Brown recommended to his superiors in San Francisco, after obtaining the concurrence of the Project Director, that a daily mimeographed newspaper be established. The suggestion was forwarded to DeWitt who denied permission to print a newspaper. In spite of the denial, the need for dissemination of information became so great at Manzanar that the WRA's Chief of Public Relations in the San Francisco and Robert Brown "decided to launch a newspaper on their own authority and present the accomplished fact to the office of the General, hoping that the product would be so good that it would force that office to recognize the need and accept the answer to the need."

The name, Manzanar Free Press, was suggested by the Chief of Public Relations in San Francisco. According to Brown, it "was hoped that the name would give the people who were later to work on the paper a feeling of pride and that they would strive to uphold the best in newspaper tradition in writing news honestly, fearlessly, and with complete freedom of mind." [18]

The first issue of the Manzanar Free Press was printed on a mimeograph press on April 11, 1942, when the center had, according to the headline, 3,302 residents. This newspaper was the first of its kind to be printed in an assembly or relocation center. It was a two-sheet, four-page, two-column edition, put together by a hastily recruited staff of five evacuees by Brown whose work records showed some experience on newspapers.

A small article on page one of the newspaper was addressed to DeWitt, complimenting him on his understanding and humane operation of the mechanics of the evacuation. [19] According to John D. Stevens, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Michigan who researched assembly and relocation center newspapers, these were the "first and only kind words which ever appeared in an evacuee publication about the man most" evacuees "blamed for their removal." A week later DeWitt, perhaps influenced by the article in the Manzanar Free Press, gave official blessings to issuance of newspapers in all centers. [20]

According to Brown, during the first several months of the newspaper's publication, various individuals representing groups within Manzanar attempted "by every method from persuasion to threat" to gain control of the newspaper. Despite these attempts, Brown asserted that "at no time did any special interest or special group 'control'" the newspaper, although he believed that prior to December 6 "its pages and its editorials were aimed perhaps too exclusively at the Nisei." In its earliest days, "when it was accused of being totally Nisei, the FREE PRESS had served a greater cause, as many of its editorials were reprinted in daily papers from coast to coast enlightening thousands of readers to whom the evacuation was merely a wire-service dispatch from the West Coast."

The first issue of the Manzanar Free Press contained an editorial describing its editorial policies. The editorial noted:

We don't have a 'policy'. . . . Politics are out! We don't have to worry about what our advertisers think! We will have no circulation department worries .... This to a newspaper man or woman is plain Utopia. We should be able to devote all our creative effort to make this sheet one of the liveliest ever printed and one of the most democratic .... So far we don't even have an editor to worry us, so without this last bothersome detail, we should have a lot of fun. . . [21]

According to Brown, this editorial was "written purposely to allay fears that the paper was a 'voice of the management,' or the 'voice of the Nisei,' or the voice of anything." There was no editor, because management "was slowly feeling its way toward solving the complexities of leadership." Soon after the first issue, an "editorial board" was established consisting of the original four reporters — Joe Blarney, city editor; Sam Hohri, feature editor; Chiye Mori, news editor; and Tomomasa Yamasaki, editorial. [22] On May 19, six weeks after the first issue Yamasaki, was named the editor. [23]

After two weeks as editor, Yamasaki was elected a Block Leader. He left the newspaper, and the editorial board again functioned as a group.

On June 9 the Manzanar Free Press printed an editorial announcing a "new policy." The editorial stated:

We want to repeat again that the Free Press belongs to the people of Manzanar, that, instead of being merely the mouthpiece of the administration, it strives to express the opinions of the evacuees in the solution of immediate and foreseen problems.

If possible, we want to be the open forum for discussion of administration policies because these policies will directly affect every individual here. We know that the administration will welcome a healthy and active interest on the part of the residents as it is only with harmonious cooperation that our Shangri-La can be built. [24]

On July 22 the Manzanar Free Press was the first relocation center newspaper to change its format and become an independent journal, changing from a mimeographed sheet to a four-page printed newspaper in tabloid form. Chiye Mori became the new editor and served in that capacity until the December "incident." [25]

Since the newspaper staff members were able to relocate with relative ease, there was a continuous turnover in its staff. Because of this turnover it was necessary to carry on a program of in-service training. Young untrained people came to the newspaper office for training at the same time doing a day's work for the organization. During the first year the Brown gave considerable personal attention to training. Journalism classes were organized and held at night, using daily copy as text material. Shorthand classes taught by one of the secretaries on the staff were also offered. The chief mimeograph operator took one untrained person a month to train on mimeograph work. The head artist held weekly classes in illustrating and use of the stylus on stencils. Typists were coached in form and style by the senior typists.

From the beginning of the newspaper, many Issei evacuees at Manzanar complained that, because the newspaper was written exclusively in English, it was only for the Nisei and that it meant nothing to them since they could not read English. For a period it was felt that this might be a means of inducing those Issei who could not read English to study the language, but, according to Brown, "it was soon discovered that this was an idle dream."

Both camp management and the editorial staff of the newspaper understood the difficulties of issuing a Japanese edition of the Manzanar Free Press. Most of the Nisei on the newspaper could not read Japanese, and those who could cautioned against issuing such an edition because of attempts which might be made to write with "double meaning."

Nevertheless, camp management realized that only the younger people in the center were being reached by the newspaper. Efforts were undertaken to find some means for issuing a Japanese language supplement which would be a "strict translation of the English version, but which would get the news across to the older residents." In May and June 1942 two persons joined the appointed personnel who could read Japanese. In July the Catholic Church appointed a priest to aid the Catholic congregation at Manzanar who could also read Japanese. Using these staff members as a "board of censors," management felt it could begin issue of a Japanese language edition. An editorial board, composed of an Issei, Kibei, and Nisei, was chosen for this section of the newspaper. Copy had to pass all three for clarity, form, and content before it was submitted to the appointed personnel board and printed.

The WRA office in San Francisco was informed of the decision to publish the paper in Japanese. That office informed various security agencies and requested that management forward copies of all Japanese language editions to these agencies. The newspaper published 11 issues with Japanese sections in June 1942 before Washington ordered it to stop. The section resumed August 21, but like similar sections in other centers, it was supposed to carry only translations of material published in the English section. That policy changed on October 1 when it was announced that the four-page Japanese language supplement would publish original as well as translated material subject to WRA guidelines. [26]

The goal of the newspaper's original staff was to replace the mimeographed format with a printed sheet as soon as finances could be found to fund such an operation. When the Manzanar Cooperative Enterprises was established in June 1942, the newspaper staff approached the cooperative's board, asking that it underwrite the cost of six printed issues with the understanding that (1) as outside advertising came in, the cost would be reduced to the cooperative, and (2) that advertising space would continue to be available until the initial underwriting cost was absorbed. It was agreed that if advertising revenue did not cover the cost of the paper, the cooperative would absorb the difference. In return, the newspaper would make available to the cooperative enough space to balance the cost at regular advertising rates. This space could be used for an educational or news column with material exclusively aimed at developing interest in the cooperative movement at Manzanar. Outside advertising revenue was not sufficient to cover the entire cost for each issue, and the cooperative continued to underwrite or take enough advertising to keep the newspaper in printed form until near the closing of the center in 1945.

After this agreement with the cooperative, the masthead of the newspaper carried a statement that described its publishing status. The statement — "Official Publication of the Manzanar Relocation Center Administration, and Newspaper of Manzanar Community Enterprises." According to Brown, this differentiation between editorial control and ownership continued until the end of the publication — "not without its struggles, by any means — but the status was maintained."

The newspaper was supplied free of charge to all evacuees. Extra copies sold at five cents each, while initial mail subscriptions and subscriptions to appointed personnel were six dollars a year or 50 cents per month. Advertising rates initially were 35 cents an inch. At its height, circulation reached 3,700 copies, and mail subscriptions covered virtually every state in the nation. The financial support provided by the cooperative, which was in effect owned by the residents, made it possible to produce a newspaper at a cost of less than one cent per person per month. Advertisers included many local firms in Inyo County that sold merchandise to the cooperative and many national firms such as Sears, Roebuck and Company, the Wool Trading Company of New York, and the Golden State and Borden milk companies.

The Chalfant Press, owned by George Savage in nearby Lone Pine, printed the Manzanar Free Press from July 22, 1942, onward. Difficulties developed because the newspaper's evacuee editors could not leave the center to go to the print shop when the copy was ready for printing. Nor was it possible to run proofs to bring them back to the center to make up a dummy for retransmission back to the printer. The printer, in turn, was handicapped by a small staff.

These difficulties were worked out by careful editing of typewritten copy and by giving the linotype operator and printer a concentrated education in Japanese names and phrases. The linotype operator edited most of the copy as he cast the slugs, and the printer filled in where he missed. The cooperation of this firm "went far to make the paper the success that it was from a layout and production standpoint." [27]

Documentary Reports. Soon after the WRA assumed administrative control of Manzanar on June 1, 1942, Brown recommended that a documentary record be started that would be more of a summary of the life in the center than was being documented by the Manzanar Free Press. He believed that the reports should be written to provide background for events or currents in center life, and that they should emphasize the evolving life of evacuees in the camp, provide an interpretation of life in the center, and occasionally provide evacuee opinion sampling.

Joe Masaoka, an evacuee who as a Japanese American Citizens League leader had gained considerable recognition before the evacuation in newspaper circles in Southern California as a result of his cooperation with military and naval authorities, was chosen to prepare the documentary reports. As his assistant, he chose Togo Tanaka, the prewar English-language editor of the Los Angeles-based Rafu Shimpo newspaper. According to Brown, as "events turned out, the wisdom of choosing the latter could be questioned, but the choice of the former paid good dividends to the management of the Center and to the national program."

This team turned in its first report on June 9, 1942. Reports, written in a "news-magazine style," were submitted at a rate of two or three a week until December 7, 1942. Excerpts from the reports, or at times the complete reports, were sent to the WRA Regional Office in San Francisco to keep that office apprised of events at Manzanar. After the December 6 incident, the authors of the special documentation were relocated for their protection. Thereafter, a system of reporting from the blocks was instituted, which "probably gave a better overall picture of daily events, but which lacked the color of the earlier reports." [28]

Daily Block Reports. The aforementioned Information Office was destined to play a vital role in the early administration of the Manzanar camp. Under the general supervision of the WCCA's Welfare Section, the Information Office established four branches in the center, employing 57 people, and performing a variety of services. The office handled inquiries and complaints, translated letters for residents from Japanese to English and vice versa. For a period, it handled mail before establishing an independent mail system within the center. It wrote all bulletin material in both English and Japanese, and handled a "Volunteer Service Corps" which grew to include 450 persons who worked without pay helping incoming evacuees to get settled.

Shortly after administration of the center was taken over by the WRA, the first attempt at representation within the blocks was started. Block Leaders were appointed by the administration from candidates who were nominated by the block residents. The Block Leaders met and elected a chairman. Out of this came a "Town Hall" organization and a weekly meeting of Block Leaders with the Project Director.

Conflicts arose between the Block Leaders and the managers of the Information Service. The residents had become comfortable with taking their problems to the Information Office, and the staff had either answered questions and complaints or forwarded the questions to the camp administration for discussion with officials. Because the system worked smoothly, residents were slow to fake their troubles to the newly-elected or appointed Block Leaders.

On May 20, 1942, supervision of the Information Office was transferred from the Welfare Section to the Information Office. By June 1, when the WRA took over, it was apparent that the conflict between the Block Leaders and the Information Office workers had to be settled. A plan was developed to break up the Information Office as a unit and transfer its personnel to the Block Leader organization. In the new organization they would act as clerks for the Block Leaders, carrying on the type of work they had been doing, while the Block Leaders were left free to work with people in the blocks, attend meetings, and supervise the work of their assistants.

The two top men of the Information Office were offered positions, one as chief clerk in the "Town Hall" or main office of the Block Leaders, the other as assistant to the reports officer. It was determined that the clerk in the Block Leaders' office would make daily reports of happenings, conditions, complaints within each block. The reports would be forwarded to the chief clerk in the Town Hall, who would answer most questions, discuss questions of importance with the reports officer and his assistant, and prepare a daily summary of activity which the reports officer would circulate to staff members and forward to the Regional Office in San Francisco.

Approximately half of the staff of the old Information Service joined the new Block Leaders' organization which continued until the center closed in 1945. This organization served as a two-way channel of information — from the residents to Town Hall and the management and from the management, through Town Hall, back to the residents.

The daily reports of the Block Leaders are one of the principal sources of information for an understanding of the daily activities, concerns, and issues facing the evacuees at Manzanar. A digest of the block reports for October 1942, for instance, states that the "35 Block Managers turned in 424 daily reports" during the month — "an average of 12 reports for each block for 27 business days of the month." The digest indicated that (I) improvements to the barracks and a variety of recreational programs were underway, (2) some evacuees were requesting an explanation of the WRA's organizational structure and demanding to know how soon their private furniture would be delivered from private storage, (3) evacuees were interested in having photographic and watch repair shop services as well as weekly movie entertainment established in the camp, and (4) one of the principal problems facing the evacuees was what to do with their leisure time. [29]

Administrative Reports. When the Washington Office of the WRA developed standard monthly report forms in late 1942, the Reports Division handled this routine duty. Two evacuee staff members were detailed to work with division and section heads to prepare the forms for mailing to Washington. Material for the standardized reports was generally forwarded in rough draft form or telephoned to the Reports Office, and the forms were compiled and edited by the reports officer.

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Last Updated: 01-Jan-2002