Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Slate Writer Asks, "Are the Media Being Too Mean to China?"

Posted by Teresa at 11:19 AM
I've been hearing criticism that NBC is not being hard enough on the Chinese
in their coverage. So this is a new perspective:

The Western media have arrived en masse to China's ball: lots
of senior journalists, in sloppy dress, interested either in their
own athletes or in writing their own big "China piece." (Foreign
guests are here, too, but fewer than Beijing had hoped for, thanks
in part to self-defeating visa policies.) Not surprisingly, the
stories written about China by foreign journalists are rarely on
topics China might have hoped for.

The Western press is fascinated with the two P's: pollution and
protests. For dessert, anything to do with Tibetan independence,
censorship, or foreign visitors is also welcome. Sometimes all of
these issues converge, like last Wednesday, when a gaggle of
Americans put up a "Free Tibet" banner in Tiananmen Square
on what happened to be a very smoggy day. Now that's a story.


So are the media just being a little mean to China? It does at
times feel akin to if coverage of the Atlanta Olympics
were
focused on the failings of the U.S. health care
system and the
plight of the American Indian. One foreign
correspondent for a major American newspaper agreed, telling me,
"In Athens the traffic jams were presented as the outgrowth of a hip
Mediterranean lifestyle. Here they become yet another product of
state repression."


Chinese friends and strangers I've been chatting up on the
street complain that the coverage is unfair or biased. "Maybe
it's just a kind of cultural difference between Eastern and
Western peoples," said Liu Shudi, a student I talked to in
a cafe in downtown Beijing. She concedes that it's hard to
get her hands on much Western media, but what she has
seen (mainly CNN) seems "biased." "We worked so hard.
Maybe we didn't do everything right, but we really did work
hard. It's unfair.


I haven't watched all that much of the Olympics. I viewed some of the Opening
Ceremonies and Women's Gymnastics. Nothing so far has truly stood out to
me as biased. However, I see nothing wrong bringing up China's human rights
violations
to put the pretty picture they are presenting in perspective. Wu points
out that that foreign correspondents had some criticisms of the United States
when we hosted the Olympics in 1996.
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