I haven’t seen Edwin at CCTV9 for a week, so I haven’t had a chance to tease him about his appearance in the LA Times last Tuesday. (You sellout, Edwin. You stooge.) His popularity is likely to rise even further in China as news of this slander spreads like wildfire throughout the country. How could those horrible people attack our beloved Edwin? They’re like the evil Canadians who club baby seals.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you probably ought to go away and read the article before you continue here.
So, early last week a common refrain among foreign staff at CCTV was “have you seen the LA Times article?” Followed by laughter. Then Friday afternoon, I’d hardly sat down at my desk when a Chinese colleague gleefully accosted me: “Have you seen the Global Times article? I’ve got to print it out for you.” More laughter.
It seems that not everyone shares our view that this is all very funny.
The West attacks foreign CCTV anchor, calls him a news sellout
Global Times, December 6, 2007
For the last four years, New Zealander Edwin Maher has held the post of anchor for CCTV’s English-language news. Because of this, he has been criticized by certain so-called Western news experts. They hurl one insult after another, like “news sellout” and “mouthpiece.” On December 4, the Los Angeles Times published a report on Maher. He’s unfazed by groundless attacks made by certain Western figures, telling the Los Angeles Times reporter, “I simply don’t care.” But Chinese media figures who know Maher well are furious about the bigoted and unreasonable criticism.
CCTV colleagues furious at unreasonable attacks that border on bigotry
The Los Angeles Times says, “Maher was hired in 2003 to shake off its image as a government mouthpiece.” Maher anchors the news four times a day for millions of viewers worldwide. American critics say Maher is not a reporter at all, but a shameless government yes-man who gives all Western journalists a bad name. The University of California’s Berkeley School of Journalism professor Neil Henry criticizes Maher, saying the reason he is in China to broadcast news is actually to “add a whiff of Western credibility to their (China’s) news. It’s very superficial.” Henry says Maher is a “propagandist.” Bieder, a senior lecturer at the same school says, “Most Americans would say he’s a sellout.” And USA Today mocks Maher in its headline “China’s mouthpiece has a Kiwi accent.”
As this reporter understands it, these so-called Western media figures simply don’t understand Maher and they have never made any enquiries on this matter to CCTV. They see Chinese news through colored spectacles and their approach verges on bigotry. “Maher is absolutely not the kind of person they say he is,” a senior media worker told the Global Times, expressing intense indignation at the unreasonable attacks from certain Western figures in this report. This person believes that Maher is someone in the media who deserves respect, both for his character and professional ability. This media worker dismisses the criticisms of these so-called Western media experts, “Do they understand Maher? Do they know the facts?”
Maher’s work helps the world understand the real China
The Global Times also interviewed relevant media experts. The experts pointed out that since the reform and opening up, a great many foreign experts have come to China and this also applies to the news industry. Foreign experts have left their mark on many major media outlets besides CCTV. These media experts have brought different news styles to China. They have helped China’s news industry develop, giving a growing number of people in the world a more complete understanding of China. Not long ago, this reporter was in touch with a Canadian journalist, Keynes, who said that after watching CCTV9 he felt the production quality was very high. It helped him gain a more complete understanding of China and he said it corresponded with the situation he had seen in China.
Some foreign media workers helping the Chinese media have lived in China for quite a long time, giving them more of a chance to understand China’s real situation. When they compare this understanding with how they misread China before they came here, seeing it through colored glasses, some voluntarily stand up to explain the real China to the West. Their work helps China understand the world, and helps the world understand China. As Maher told the Los Angeles Times, China’s news reporting is “getting better. The door is opening wider.” At the same time, he is amazed at China’s development in the last 30 years. “I’m proud to be a part of that. People can see it differently. I don’t care.”
Certain Western experts accidentally exposed their own an ugly side
A senior media expert told the Global Times that some media in the West are always assuming a role of “moral judge” as if they alone “understand news,” they alone are news experts, and only their reports can be the most objective. However, they are completely unaware that they themselves are seeing China through colored glasses. Some foreign experts have lived in China for decades and criticize their so-called western news experts, saying they simply don’t understand China, don’t understand the Chinese media, or that they have only seen things superficially. Who, then, has the most right to speak? Who, then, has sold out journalism? Certain so-called journalism experts have accidentally revealed their own ugly side.
One senior Chinese journalist says wild conjectures in the Western media in recent years have reached the point of absurdity. Some Western reporters make wild and unsubstantiated guesses. The “March 8 bloggers” showed how lamentable this fixed way of thinking is: that an old and dignified news agency could issue a report without checking if it was true or false. The recent news of a so-called Olympic Village ban on Bibles was further evidence of fabrication by Western reporters. But those so-called news experts who find fault with Maher are still unaware of the problem there. When people who teach journalism cannot abide by the most basic of journalistic principles, they are not only slandering Maher, they are sullying the study of journalism.
As always, I ran into difficulties when I translated this article. One of them is this: the Global Times used the word “pantu” to translate “sellout.” Maybe I’m wrong, but to me “pantu” seems rather more extreme, upping the ante. I’m not criticizing. I’m just pointing out my inadequacy as a translator.
The March 8 Blogger incident occurred last year, when Wang Xiaofeng and Yuan Lei conspired to “delete” their entire blogs. ESWN translated Xinhua’s report on what happened next - highly recommended, but you must read all the way to the end.
So, should I comment on the great Battle of the Experts? I think I’ll decline, except to say that although a number of my Chinese colleagues at CCTV tell me they didn’t like the LA Times article very much, none of them expressed anything that could be remotely described as fury.
Instead of presenting any half-baked and self-contradictory opinions of my own, I’ll end by linking to two pieces - one by former Freezing Point editor Li Datong, the other by Philip Cunningham (proxy link for China). These are perhaps a more useful starting point for discussion than either of the two articles quoted above.