Saturday, August 30, 2008

Chinese Democracy

Black and White Cat is a blog that writes about China from an insider's perspective. (btw, found this via Forbes ===>Reporting From The '1984' Beijing Olympics by Paul Maidment)

Charles McGrath wrote a story for the New York Times that the Beijing Evening News translated. Um, ruthlessly edited. *cough* censored *cough*. B&W cat translated it back to english, so we can examine how the chinese news service eliminated anything even slightly negative and edited all the nuances out. It reads like propaganda now, IMHO.

===>Full text at Black and White Cat

The Chinese aren't alone in this. Everyone does it, I know, Last Friday I was editing an article while a reporter was present (not her article) and I could see her wincing wile I wrote over things, deleted others, switched paragraph order. Ya know, edited. This was an agency text so I couldn't call the reported and ask him/her to clarify something. What were you trying to say when you wrote unexpectedly modestly plummet?

Aaand it's a translation. Another area I dabble in, and wracking my brains out for the exact turn of phrase that sounds more professional without losing the essence, thinking, am I pouring my opinions into this? Am I interpreting too much?

Even so, it's just a reminder that freedom of the press is not a fact in China. And in many places too.

Did you know, the Singapore government claims that it does too respect freedom of the press. But it has a hand, and it discourages community participation. It wants a press that supports capitalism and free trade, but not citizen involvement or participation.

A lot of censorship is self censorship. We cover flashy items, we eschew analysis in favor of a catchy headline, and ignore community issues.

But back to the point, Madiment pointed out that editing like this explains a bit why the Chinese, according to a Pew survey in June, believe that the world thinks better of them than the rest of the world really does. (see ==>A Spectacular Misunderstanding, also by Maidment)

And when they're confronted with that reality, that your country isn't beloved byt he world and not everyone thinks you're A OK, that's when shock and ugliness ensues. Accusations that the rest of the world willfully misunderstands them, characterizes them in black and white.

Well, I'm Mexican, I'm used the the U.S. press and their broad strokes. Yes, I've crossed them off as xenophobic, ignorant, out for a quick headline, etc. Yet they do tell the truth sometimes. And truth stings.

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