Recently a friend forwarded my name to a freelance reporter for the China Daily Hong Kong edition. Yes, like many of you, I didn’t know China Daily had a Hong Kong edition …more on that later.
The Canadian born Chinese China Daily reporter emailed me a list of questions regarding English teaching and English use here in Hong Kong and I was more than happy to help her out. I even invited her out to join some friends of mine for dinner later and she commented that she’s “always searching around for freelance gigs and it helps to talk to journalists and people looking for English-language writers.”
In my email I casually asked the reporter what the readership numbers of the China Daily HK was and said that I couldn’t imagine it to be very high recalling my days living in mainland China where me and my friends would only read China Daily if there were no other English newspapers around.
The reporter took that tongue-in-cheek comment way too literally and didn’t appreciate my cynicism. Then she said “It would be best not to offend those who can help you.” As if a journalist requesting an interview with someone is helping the interviewee? I scratched my head trying to figure out her logic, I mean, she was the one who stated that she was always looking for freelance gigs?!
For those who know me, I’m a ‘people person’ and through my years as a China blogger I have assisted dozens of people on their travels and moves to China without asking for anything in return other than a new friendship. I didn’t like her assertion that my wanting to meet her was a way for me to solicit help from her in any way. This style of thinking is very ‘Chinese’, the idea of ‘guanxi’ or personal networks or relationships to help individuals get things done in business or personal life.
If the reporter was mainland Chinese, my understanding of Chinese culture would have prevented me from making a wisecrack about China Daily with her. Chinese people can be very nationalistic and are very sensitive to criticism of their own country, even if they agree with what is being said. God forbid a foreigner say something bad against the almighty motherland. However, I figured she’s a Canadian and Canadians are laid back and make jokes (and can take jokes) all the time.
Anyway, I told her that she’d just lost a number of potential China Daily Hong Kong readers (if they had any to begin with). Thankfully in this market of free media, I can still read the paper editions of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Time, etc…I’m sure I’ll manage without my daily dose of the China Daily.
Out of curiosity I googled “China Daily Hong Kong” and the first link leads you to this ugly website with dead links to stories such as one about beating SARs. You may recall that SARs disappeared from Hong Kong in 2003!
The poorly designed and irregularly updated China Daily Hong Kong website seems to be on par with its moody freelance journalists in illustrating the quality of the periodical itself.