How cyber stalker Rick Martin in Japan became “the world’s leading volleyball writer”, and a key player in a smear campaign against an expelled journalist
by Christopher Johnson
Rick Martin (1rick.com) is a popular writer in Tokyo (or as he spells it on his blog: “Toyko”).
He is such a naturally talented writer, he didn’t even need to study journalism like thousands of other university and college students in Canada.
He never had to survive a weeding-out process just to enter journalism school, or to graduate. He didn’t have to pass tests or evaluations. He didn’t have to pay his dues working at small community newspapers in Canada, or work his way up through the ranks to establish his credentials. He didn’t even have to endure the training (and punishment) of demanding professors or gruff editors. He never had to deal with sources calling his bosses demanding corrections, or angry letters-to-the-editor about his work.
No, Rick Martin is above all that.
All he had to do was move to China, and call himself a journalist.
Suddenly, thanks to the internet, he was indeed a journalist. Like Mark MacKinnon, the award-winning Beijing-based Asia correspondent for the Globe and Mail, Rick Martin was a foreign correspondent based in China, giving him status above the thousands of journalism school graduates slaving away back home in Canada.
From his base in Dalian, the media capital of northeastern China, Rick Martin didn’t just stop there. He called himself an “author”, an expert sought out by other media.
by Graham Webster February 13, 2008 10:35 PM PST
Rick Martin, author of CNET Asia’s Little Red Blog, was recently interviewed by the China Business Network, a podcasting powerhouse covering, well, business in China. Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13908_3-9871989-59.html#ixz1nT0ewACk
But, in truth, Rick Martin wasn’t hacking it as a hack in China, even though he had studied at the prestigious Dongbei University, and was fluent in computer vocabulary in Mandarin. Fed up after 5 years in China, he looked around Asia for a more dynamic, growing economy.
He moved to Japan in 2008. He already knew Japanese, which he had studied in China, and he quickly gained friends and fans on Facebook and Twitter. After only a few years in Tokyo, he now calls himself a “columnist” for the Japan Times, CNNGO, and others. He also out-hustled other competitors to win the posting of Tokyo correspondent for Penn-Olson, a Singapore-based site with correspondents across Asia.
He trumpeted this achievement in a message to his fans:
By rickmartin on 10 Jun 2011
Some of you may have figured out by now that I’m blogging over on Penn-Olson.com, an up-and-coming blog focused on technology in Asia. Think Mashable or Techcrunch but with an Asian focus. It means that I get to cover China again, something I haven’t done much of since moving leaving China for Japan back in 2008. But above all else it means that I get to experiment with new web publishing tools, something I seldom get to do when writing freelance for individual clients.
Those clients include CNNGO, a leading travel site in Asia, backed by Turner Broadcasting, which gave the world CNN, CNN International, CNN.com and other world-shaping news organizations that employ hundreds of the most trained and talented journalists in the world.
CNNGO’s freelance contract specifically states that contributors should not use the name of “CNN” to gain favours.
Capitalizing on the prestige and fame of writing for CNN’s website in Asia, Rick Martin got hired as a match reporter for the world volleyball championships in Japan from October 29 to November 14 2010, by telling officials at the Japan Volleyball Association that he was a sports writer “for CNN.” In fact, an internet search finds no evidence that Rick Martin ever wrote a published sports article before his work was posted on the official site (www.fivb.org) of the world volleyball championships on November 3, 2010. His heavily-edited pieces appeared in CNNGO.com after the tournament was over on November 14. HIs feature on running appearedon Nov. 15, and his volleyball feature in CNNGO on Dec. 13, 2010, a month after the tournament was over.
Did Rick Martin lie to the JVA and FIVB about his credentials as a published sports writer? More importantly, did Rick Martin violate his freelancer agreement with CNNGO?
In one of Martin’s first volleyball pieces for FIVB and JVA on November 3, (http://1rick.com/samples/resilient-poland-collect-third-win-against-winless-a…, he writes, according to his blog, a misspelled, acrobatic sentence: “The win represetned (sic) a good return of three wins on the trot for Poland after dropping their initial two matches to Japan and Serbia as they move into second round action which kicks off on Saturday.”
As for his alleged knowledge of volleyball, the “sports section” (http://1rick.com/sports) of his own blog says:
By rickmartin on 24 Nov 2010
Having played a ton growing up, I still try to write about sports whenever possible.
An internet search finds no evidence that Rick Martin, who is perhaps not taller than 165 cm, played volleyball or any other sport for the Memorial University Seahawks in Newfoundland, or any other team.
Did Rick Martin lie on his own blog when he says “I still try to write about sports whenever possible.”
Does this mean that Rick Martin “tried” to write about sports for much of his adult life, but couldn’t complete a story?
Or has Rick Martin been so busy his whole life, that it never was “possible” to write about sports until after he got a job writing about volleyball for the world volleyball organizers in early November 2010?
Nevertheless, Rick Martin quickly rose through the world volleyball media ranks in 2010 and 2011, ahead of his colleagues including myself (a veteran published sports writer since age 19), Fred Varcoe (a leading sports writer in Japan for more than 20 years) and Jack Gallagher (longtime Japan Times sports editor, part-time contributor for the Associated Press.)
During the world volleyball championships in Japan in 2011, Rick Martin was often the only English-language writer accredited to cover matches involving teams from the US, Germany, Brazil, Russia and other nations.
Rick Martin alone was assigned to cover the most important matches. Noting his deep understanding of volleyball and his innate writing talent, press officers with the Japan Volleyball Association and the FIVB (the Lausanne-based international volleyball federation) relied on him to be the one and only source of volleyball information for millions of fans worldwide. (Disclosure: FIVB and JVA press officers, apparently satisfied with Rick Martin’s coverage, forbid myself or other foreign journalists in Japan to cover the events, though in my case, I had done a story a year earlier for the New York Times.)
How did Rick Martin ascend to such heights of the global media industry so quickly?
It starts with his smug attitude, and disdain for trained, qualified professional reporters.
Since Rick Martin knows how to use other people’s copyrighted intellectual property found on youtube and other websites, he considers himself superior to trained, professional journalists who have endured weeding-out processes in Canada. While those hard-working, old school reporters were out risking their lives in the field talking to people braving a hurricane in Newfoundland, the avant-garde Rick Martin had the competitive advantage of “covering it” from a computer in a cozy room on the other side of the world in Tokyo.
Some of you may recall the Newfoundland Hurricane video map I made back last September. I was a little fed up at the time with what I thought was primarily story-based disaster reporting from local news orgs, when there was an enormous amount of user-generated YouTube clips of the storm that were not being taken advantage of.
But it’s clear that regular people around the province with handheld cameras and phones have one-upped the local media this time, at least as far as online coverage goes. See the map below for more.
Canadians, who also endure disasters in other provinces, have long criticized Newfoundland for taking an inordinate share of public funds and transfer payments from wealthier provinces. Rick Martin, who is obliged to pay taxes in Japan, Canada and other countries, also championed the cause of Newfoundlanders hoping to evade taxes by using form RC4288. (http://1rick.com/projects/igor)
Showing his respect for privacy and media laws, Rick Martin has also championed the work of hackers.
RT @HacksHackers: Interested in journalism x technology? Subscribe to the @hackshackers jobs newsletter. Beta version. bit.ly/z5O8HU
RT @HacksHackers: Interested in journalism x technology? Subscribe to the @hackshackers jobs newsletter. Beta version. bit.ly/z5O8HU
— Rick Martin (@1rick) February 26, 2012
8:12 PM – 25 Feb 12
Let’s see how Rick Martin’s writing would compare with journalism students at a Canadian university such as Carleton, where I studied journalism for four years from 1983-87.
Firstly, let’s check Rick Martin’s volleyball story for CNNGO.com (http://1rick.com/samples/saori-kimura-japans-rising-volleyball-superstar-cnngo), also http://www.cnngo.com/tokyo/life/infinite-saorin-kimura-japans-volleyball-star…
Despite the efforts of good editors in Tokyo and Hong Kong (who do excellent edits of my features for CNNGO), Rick Martin’s story would have earned a grade of “F” in a first year journalism school assignment.
Rick Martin mis-spells Tokyo and the name of the star athlete of his story.
He spells Tokyo “Toyko”. (Martin also repeats this mistake in the first line of his own blog posting: When the Women’s World Volleyball Championships came to Toyko last month.)
Then, he misspells the name of the story’s main subject, Kimura Saori, one of Japan’s most popular athletes. Saori is spelled Saorin.
Spiker Saori Kimura is the team’s top scorer. Her nickname “Nippon no mirai Saorin Mugendai” or “Infinite Saorin” (Japan’s future) tells us exactly how much she means to Japan volleyball.
The story ran almost a month after the tournament finished on November 14, 2010, making the info useless for anybody who wanted to check it out. (Nobody commented on this story, and there were zero tweets).
Lacking any news peg or timeliness, the CNNGO editor at that time (a successful journalist and entrepreneur in Japan) must have struggled to find a way to give Martin’s writing some focus, since Martin mostly copied quotes and lines off the tournament’s website. So the editor went with: SAORI KIMURA: Japan’s Rising Volleyball Star.
The first three lines:
When the Women’s World Volleyball Championships came to Toyko last month, hopes were high for the host side.
Ranked number five overall, a place on the podium would have been a great result, and the team would need its stars to raise them to such great heights.
Luckily for the host nation, Japan’s best players are also among the world’s best.
Unaware of the inverted pyramid structure of news writing, Rick Martin doesn’t even tell us that Japan finished third (no small achievement) until half-way through the story. Why not put that at the top, to excite readers about Japan women’s volleyball?
Like a high school paper reporter, Rick Martin’s writing is pure cheerleading:
But driven by their two stars and an emotional boost from hometown fans throughout the tournament, Japan pulled off a well-earned bronze.
Even more remarkable was that Japan came within only a few points of doing even better, giving fans worldwide some of the most entertaining matches in the history of the sport.
That’s right, in the history of the sport, a sport which Martin seemingly had never covered before weaseling his way into a job paying 30,000 yen per day (about $400) writing for the JVA and FIVB official site.
Next, the article digresses into how the tournament unfolded, and it veers off toward other players, instead of focusing on Saori (Saorin) Kimura. Rick Martin goes on to cobble quotes taken from FIVB’s website, without crediting them or the reporters who got the quotes (including myself, Varcoe, Gallagher, and FIVB Press Director Richard Baker.)
Finally, after readers wade through muddy passages, Rick Martin’s disclaimer appears at the end:
Disclosure: Rick Martin was a FIVB match reporter for the World Championships
* * * * * * *
More than a year later, Rick Martin is continuing to call himself a “columnist” for CNNGO.com, when in fact he has contributed just a handful of feature stories, mostly about technology.
CNNGO’s author posts (http://www.cnngo.com/author/123892/articles) list only 3 stories by Rick Martin:
–50 ultimate trade apps … so far
–Japanese scientists creating lifelike human organs (It generated 5 “likes”, 27 “tweets”, and no comments)
–CTRL + ALT Tokyo: Tech news with attitude (also nobody bothered to comment)
Rick Martin’s article “Japanese scientists creating lifelike human organs” generated 5 “likes”, 27 “tweets”, and no comments.
It features a Rick Martin original photo with a microphone blocking the mouth of GREE CEO Yoshikazu Tanaka. (another failing grade in journalism school)
HIs writing shows that his cheerleading goes beyond the world of sports:
Say what you want about the economy, but there’s rarely a month that passes when we don’t see some sort of astounding technology emerge from Japan.
July was no exception. The folks at Kobe University Hospital rolled out 3D printers that can create biological models of organs.
Meanwhile over at Kagawa University, researchers have created a faux human mouth capable of producing speech.
Suddenly, in mid-article, Rick Martin writes about something — sports — that has nothing to do with the topic:
“It was a good month for Japan abroad, however, as the Women’s soccer team took the World Cup, knocking out the favored U.S. team on penalties.The moment was pretty sweet for Japan, a nation still struggling to get back on its feet post-quake, but that didn’t stop a number of Twitturds from pooping on the parade.
Twitter’s trending topics list, besides showing a classy “congrats Japan” also displayed “Japs” and “Pearl Harbor.”
Yes, Rick Martin, showing his gift for language, calls people on twitter “twit-turds”, and they are “pooping” on the parade. He also makes sure to include the war era racial slur “Japs” in a story about Japan’s “astounding technology.”
Then he goes further off topic, talking about criticism of the soccer team’s coach. What does this have to do with “lifelike human organs”?
Speaking about organs, the article then digresses toward Lady Gag.
“As for foreigners visiting Japan, the most notable visitor in July was Lady Gaga.”
Finally, Rick Martin has to get in a word supporting a hacker — a theme of his, as he thinks hackers and stalkers are good for free and open journalism.
In domestic hacking news, 28-year-old Masato Nakatsuji was sentenced to two and a half years in prison on charges of property destruction as a result of his “ika-tako” virus. The malware, once it took over a victim’s computer, would replace files with cartoon pictures of squid and octopuses. It’s creative, at least.
His interest in hackers also appears in another CNNGO “column” which garnered no comments: CTRL + ALT Tokyo: Tech news with attitude
He writes in the first paragraph: Sony’s troubles continued this month, this time as hacker group Lulzsec breached Sony Pictures.
He also panders to a fellow contributor in the Japan Times, which is CNNGO’s direct competitor: Brian Ashcraft had a great overview of Sony’s situation in The Japan Times for anyone who’s not up to speed.
* * * * * *
Rick Martin’s fascination with hackers and his disdain for old-school journalists showed through in his response to the detention and expulsion of this reporter after legally living and working in Japan on-and-off since 1989.
Though we are both Canadian freelance journalists living in Japan, and we share several friends on Facebook, Rick Martin did not write me to show his support or concern like dozens of other journalists did. Instead, I have strong reasons to suspect that Rick Martin used the smear campaign against me, on several hateful websites about Japan, to take out his grudge against old-school journalists and discredit a competitor in the industry.
For disclosure, I have only met Rick Martin once, during a press conference at a Tokyo hotel in late 2010. That day, the FIVB and JVA assigned me to write the official match report for the women’s semi-finals and final matches, since I was perhaps the most experienced sportswriter in their roster.
Rick Martin, losing the assignment, appeared jealous. He did not respond to my calls or emails after that. He had a motive to badmouth me behind my back to our superiors in the JVA and FIVB, and this may have cost me paying work in 2011 worth about $10,000.
Other FIVB and JVA workers noted that Rick Martin was currying favour with his boss, a young Japanese woman named Hiromi Suzuki, in order to take their roles in future tournaments. Whatever happened behind the scenes, the result was that the FIVB and JVA decided not to hire me for any work in 2011, and they gave roles, which I had done in 2010, to a candidate with less experience and training — Rick Martin.
During the height of the character assassination aimed at me during January this year, Rick Martin badmouthed me in tweets to other Tokyo-based journalists.
When I asked him on twitter to explain why he was joining the smear campaign against me, he responded with a strange message on Feb. 3, 2012. He told me that he was digging up dirt about me and my work using “version tracker”.
I thus have reason to believe that Rick Martin was behind the Japanprobe.com article on Feb. 8 defaming myself and the Washington Times over our coverage of Japan Tobacco targeting teenage Japanese girls by sponsoring the World Cup of Volleyball in Japan in 2011. (My stories also appeared in CNNGO.com and www.japantoday.com, a popular site among expats in Japan.)
Back in November 2011, I had posted a comedy piece, The Press Office from Hell, on this Globalite Magazine blog. It was meant as a joke story to cheer up a young reporter who had worked in the nuclear and tsunami disaster zones of Fukushima and northeastern Japan.
The reporter was distraught about the nasty way that Rick Martin and the Japan Volleyball Association and FIVB press officers treated her during her attempts to cover an international event for foreign media. JVA and FIVB press officers forbid her to enter a Tokyo arena to cover the international event, even though she was assigned to cover the US volleyball team. Instead of aiding a fellow young journalist, Rick Martin also refused to help her, and told her to stop “yelling from the porch”. This was witnessed by other reporters, and Rick Martin also confirmed it in messages to me.
I believe that FIVB and JVA officers, and Rick Martin, were aiming to insult me for writing about the United Nations and anti-tobacco groups in Japan scolding the JVA, FIVB and Japan Tobacco over their market targeting of teenage girls in Japan.
My comedy story “The Press Office from Hell” was all true. Reporters taped conversations with the event’s haughty officials, including Hiroshi Takeuchi. Mr. Takeuchi, a veteran employee of the Kyodo News agency, has also been the press attaché for the Japan Olympic team.
My comedy story, which never appeared elsewhere, was buried in my blog, and had only a few views by the time I removed it to make way for more important and popular stories (some stories have garnered between 3000 and 20,000 views).
Few people knew about this joke story other than people involved in it. I wrote briefly about Rick Martin, but not in a negative or attacking way. I mentioned that Martin, as the lone accredited foreign journalist in English, had the job of telling the whole world about the event.
It’s possible that Martin felt offended by the story, and didn’t enjoy its stated mission to provide comic relief.
During the smear campaign against me in January and February, I noticed Martin badmouthing me behind my back to others in Japan on twitter. When I asked Martin on twitter, “what’s this?” Martin answered on Feb. 3:
It’s a version tracker.
@cjinasia It’s a version tracker.
— Rick Martin (@1rick) February 4, 2012
7:57 PM – 3 Feb 12
About 5 days later, on Feb. 8, Japanprobe ran a story featuring a “version tracker” link to a photo capture of the Press Office from Hell story, which I had already removed from my own blog. The story appeared on Japanprobe at the height of the smear campaign, to discredit a journalist exposing inconvenient truths about the abuse of thousands of foreigners, including hundreds of westerners such as Canadians. The JP headline was: Washington Times Freelancer Slams Former Employer, Fails to Ethically Disclose Relationship?
Though he has falsely lambasted me for alleged lack of disclosure or transparency, the editor of Japanprobe does not list his real name on his site, only James: Editor-in-Chief. His twitter account is @jamesJPN, and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Though the site often attacks foreigners, called “flyjin” for leaving Japan after the March 11 disasters, Japanprobe claims it is not based in Japan, and thus not subject to Japan’s laws against cyber bullying on online defamation.
At the end of the libellous article, Japanprobe praises anonymous “cyber sleuths” for digging up negative information about me.
I feel that Rick Martin is the cyber sleuth. Rick Martin is responsible for helping Japanprobe libel me and the Washington Times. Rick Martin has repeatedly shown a grudge against me and my colleagues, and therefore he has a motive for discrediting me. Rick Martin has repeatedly defended the practice of using “versionista” to dig up, and store, negative information about people, including me. He has defended Japanprobe’s actions of using, without my consent, my copyrighted intellectual property, in an abusive way.
In a number of email exchanges with email@example.com, I gave Rick Martin several chances to walk away clean from this situation.
Rick Martin denies that he is the “cyber sleuth” which Japanprobe praises for helping them find an article buried deep in my blog, which briefly mentions Rick Martin. However, during email exchanges on Feb. 21, Rick Martin repeatedly defended the practice of “version tracking”, which I consider an illegal abuse of my copyrighted work.
I believe that Rick Martin was the only one with a motive to expose the story. Nobody else, other than Martin, could have cared about or found the article, which barely had any views, and was buried several pages inside a blog containing hundreds of feature stories with photos over the past decade. Another cyber-sleuth would have needed days to read every article to finally find something potentially useful as ammunition against me. Other cyber sleuths would have had no idea that I had briefly worked a few weeks for JVA in 2010, among several dozen employers over the past few years.
Thus I believe that Rick Martin dug up the Press Office from Hell story and sent it to Japanprobe, as a way of getting revenge on me.
Rick Martin appears to contradict himself, and cover up his relation with Japanprobe, in a series of emails on Feb. 21, listed in order of appearance.
1- “There’s nothing illegal about versionista. See ProPublica’s use/advocacy of it here: http://www.propublica.org/article/changetracker
It’s an award-winning journalism tool: http://www.propublica.org/article/changetracker-wins-innovation-award-724 If you have doubts, @brianboyer would be happy to clarify.
2- “I have not participated in any smear campaign,” he wrote. “But as you know, the repeated edits did raise some eyebrows.”
3- “I assume you’re referring to the Japan Probe article:
…which refers to you not disclosing your JVA employment history in this Washington times piece (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/nov/24/japan-tobacco-accused-of-marketing-to-girls-at-wor/).
4- In a following exchange, Rick Martin then admitted to “setting up a couple of version trackers on blog posts which interested me, one of which actually mentioned me (again, just preserving your own words, which you later deleted).”
5- I don’t know Japan Probe, but they did point out your JVA rant post to me, not vice versa as you seem to think.
6- Given that you’ve been sending them (japanprobe) legal notices and threats, I don’t plan getting involved further. But suffice it to say that I don’t have anything further than a first name (of editors at Japanprobe).
7- I was pointed towards an article that mentioned me, and I put a tracker on it.
Rick Martin has refused to name who at Japanprobe allegedly “pointed” him toward the contentious article stored deep within my blog. Why is Rick Martin protecting Japanprobe, instead of a fellow Canadian journalist? If he had nothing to do with this, why wouldn’t he reveal the name of the editor who allegedly “pointed” him toward the contentious article?
In summary, Rick Martin says he knows a first name of someone at Japanprobe. Rick Martin says somebody at Japanprobe pointed out the JVA rant which mentions Rick Martin. Rick Martin also contradicts himself, claiming “I don’t know Japanprobe.” Rick Martin repeatedly defends his right to track my copyrighted original work on “versionista”, and says he has indeed tracked and stored my work. Rick Martin admits that he was hurt by a misunderstanding he had with me over something on Facebook several months ago. “But I haven’t participated in any smear campaign,” he claims.
Based on our personal and online interactions, I believe Tokyo-based Canadian freelancer journalist Rick Martin is partially responsible for libeling me and my employers, and Rick Martin has abused my copyrighted intellectual property without my consent, in violation of media laws in Japan, Canada and other countries.
Ultimately, the joke is on Rick Martin and Japanprobe. Though I have removed a post which makes fun of Rick Martin and FIVB and JVA press officers, Japanprobe is continuing to show it on the internet. Thus, in a twisted irony, Rick Martin and Japanprobe are now responsible for making fun of Rick Martin and his employers at the FIVB and Japan Volleyball Association.