A few days ago, I met Daniel Oshinsky (a friend of a friend), a blogger for the Rocky Mountain News’ 2008 Summer Olympics Blog. He is a friendly guy who I got to talk to for a little bit. He’s been studying at Remin Daxue (People’s University) here in Beijing for the past month and now is getting in on the journalistic action for the Olympics.
I’m glad that folks like Daniel have an opportunity to be here in Beijing for the Olympics. Bloggers like him will open up the eyes of many around the world.
But I’m also really worried about Daniel. He knows little to no Mandarin. He’s been here about a month. And it is precisely folks that don’t know a lot about China (and all its cultural, political, and historical habits) that will be covering China to the max for three weeks. And chances are they will be covering the pollution, babies without diapers peeing in the streets, and people not queuing properly. I have a hunch that more negative stories than positive stories will be inked when things get tallied up come the closing ceremonies on August 24.
I don’t mean to pick on Daniel because he’s already a cut above for being here a month (and I’m not saying I’m any better), but I am really wary of reporters that don’t speak Chinese. How do you get the nuance of the culture? How do you balance your opinion? Translators aren’t enough. Show me you know what you’re doing.
So, should you be listening to the so-called “China Hands” which have lived and breathed China for the last ten plus years? Maybe. But they too are tinted. In my eight months in China, I don’t have fresh eyes anymore. I have “xiguan”-ed, adapted to this place. I don’t pause for Chinglish signs, and I crowd on to the subway without thinking anymore.
I worry about my ability to “see” the news in China.
With the ramp-up in Olympics coverage, just remember to check who is behind the stories. It’s more important than ever to read diverse coverage at a time when everybody is covering the same thing.