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"A Reporter's Guide to Covering the Olympics"

August 3, 2008

The China Blog, TIME
July 31, 2008

Commenter oohkuchi put up this little gem which he says he found "at
the back of a sofa in the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) common
room in Hong Kong." Not sure about that, but it is pretty funny.
Pretty close to the bone in some places, too.

"Reporter Guidelines for Covering the Beijing Olympics.
1) On arrival, set the scene by saying a few nice things about the
infrastructure -- the high rises and the multilane highways, the
interchanges. Developmenty sort of stuff.
2) Make an amusing, self-deprecating comment about your inability to
speak or read the funny language they have in China. Play down the
fact that you are dependent on a translator for quotes and newspaper
reading. Never admit in print to getting story ideas or borrowing
quotes from the China Daily.
3) Get story ideas and borrow quotes from the China Daily. Make sure
you do this discreetly. For background only.
4) Now for reportage. After saying the nice things about the new
buildings, get your translator to find a Beijing yam seller whose
slum was knocked down to make way for the Olympic badminton hall. Do
a few paras on him, and how all the money thrown at the Games is not
helping the poor, and how terrible the huge income gap is. Make sure
you write at least three times as much about the yam seller whose
slum was pulled down as you do about all the new apartments, new
metro lines, the growth in car ownership, the expanding health
insurance and all the other good news about China that nobody in the
west really wants to know about.
5) Say how horrible the air in Beijing is, even if it isn't on the
days you are there. Everybody says Beijing air is horrible, so play along.
6) The political bit. Interview a token party member, but reword him
subtly to make it sound like he is just spouting the party line. Bend
the translator's words to fit -- it'll be rubbish English anyway.
(Ditto in all quote treatment). Then find a good Chinese, one who is
fluent in English, has lived in America or Britain, and is
prodemocracy. Give them lots of space, let them sing. Martin Lee
types, but preferably younger and female, for the mugshot. If you can
get an interview with the Olympic artist, Ai-whatsisname, who is an
anti-Commie quote machine, give him full throttle. Hopefully, he
hasn't been arrested yet.

Lastly, please remember: Chinese who love their country are called
"nationalists." Never use this word for Americans, French, Tibetans
and other civilized peoples who love their country or territory. When
demonstrators protest over Tibet they are acting in a heartfelt,
spontaneous way, waving pretty flags you would be happy to see woven
into your granny's bedspread. When Chinese counter-demonstrate, they
are always "bussed in," the mood is "ugly," and they are draped in
intimidating red flags that can be made to look a bit Hitler
Jugend-ish with the right kind of photo. (They probably did arrive in
buses as this is the cheapest way of moving numbers of
not-very-well-off people around, but you don't need to prove the
insinuation that the regime laid on the vehicles). Beijing is always
a "regime," by the way, and is not to be confused with western
"governments." (But: Hong Kong is an exception. Because it was under
benign, enlightened British dictatorship for a long time, it cannot
be a "regime." "Regime" only applies to dictatorships in rubbish countries).

That's about it. Don't be deceived by all that friendly smiling and
optimism, that's just a front. It's your job, with your long days of
experience of the Far East and your fluency in a language spoken by
nearly 0.005% of the locals, to get under the radar and ferret out
the truth. Did I mention how bad the air in Beijing is?"
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