Fri, Oct 29, 2010 - Page 3 News List

Film looks at US news coverage of China

By J. Michael Cole  /  Staff Reporter

Despite the relative openness in contemporary China, the panelists said there was a major difference between China, which continues to look at foreign correspondents with suspicion, and Taiwan, which is extraordinarily open and where foreign reporters have tremendous access to all levels of society and government.

Part of this comes from different traditions and histories, Enav said, pointing to Taiwan’s unique experience and heavy US influence.

Despite the ease of access in Taiwan, however, Jennings said its story was “hard to sell,” as there was little overseas interest. To remedy that, innovative ways to present Taiwan to the world, such as comparing it with South Korea and Japan as part of the narrative of “a broader Asia story,” will be needed, he said.

“Taiwan is more Asian in a lot of ways than China,” Jennings said.

Asked whether there was any foundation to Beijing’s claims of a Western media bias against it — to which Enav replied “not just Beijing,” a reference to AP’s interview controversy with President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) last week — Chinoy, who opened the CNN bureau in Beijing in 1987, said the conflict largely stemmed from the Western tradition of journalism whereby reporters serve as “the voice of the voiceless” and see their role as “pointing a flashlight into a dark corner” to expose wrongdoing by the powerful, a philosophy that for various reasons has little appeal with Chinese authorities.

“Serious journalists do not frame it as anti-China or pro-China,” he said, adding that a long tradition by Chinese officials of lying, misleading and stonewalling reporters had turned the latter into cynics who were prone to be skeptical of everything the authorities said.

“But people are sensitive when outsiders come in and take out their dirty laundry and broadcast it all over the world,” he said.

In concluding remarks, Chinoy said the project was also looking into the possibility of producing a documentary on foreign reporters’ experiences in Taiwan.

The six-part series is still in the making and completion of the episodes will be contingent on funding, Chinoy said, adding that copyright permission to use some of the footage sometimes came at a cost of US$30 per second, making the project expensive.

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