Monday, April 13, 2009

Working for the Clampdown

Content restrictions and control at my new employer seem to be increasing the closer we get to launch date April 20, though it's really turned more into a game than anything serious.

There is a blanket edict that any stories on North Korea or Darfur will be "positive" - giving rise to some jokes among the foreign staff about travel features like "Pyongyang: Playground in Paradise!" or "Delightful Darfur! It's more than starving flyblown refugees!"

Over on the Weird China desk ("China Mosiac") where we continue to harvest stories of hero animals, witless whacky crooks and romances gone rotten, our assigned censor has been axing pithy items that portray "superstition" or "put China in a bad light," or are "disrespectful to leaders" (a sculpture made of Mao badges) though under the "disrespectful" mandate he was unsuccessful in killing a reference to Barack Obama's "schnozz." The mundane item was about a Chinese woman who'd had a botched nose job and was being teased by others who said it resembled Obama's.

The Yiddish baffled the censor, of course, and overall he was leery of appearing "disrespectful" of a world leader. I assured him that Obama makes jokes about his ears and I doubted he'd be offended if, in a one in a trillion chance, he happened to be reading a dummy copy of Global Times that referred to his schnozz. "The Jewish vote is crucial to his support," I said after explaining what Yiddish was.

The censor has also begun submitting his own stories and I've been able to do some quality control myself. I spiked two that were less than subtle attempts at portraying Taiwan as uniformly yearning to be embraced by Benevolent Beijing. But our attempt at changing the page's name from "China Mosaic" to something a little more lively was recently quashed.

"Weird China" is a non-starter, of course, but another foreigner had suggested, "This just in..." - not bad, I thought, and I lobbied for it. It was taken under advisement and after about 10 days I asked what had happened.

"It was turned down," one of my Weird China reporters confessed. "Not suitable."

"Why?" I asked. "They didn't get it? It's a journalism cliche, but appropriate for the page. It's no prize winner but better than China Mosaic." She was silent and then sighed.

"They discussed it and finally think you are trying to promote yourself," she said quietly.

"What? How?" I couldn't see it at all.

She sighed again, paused, then cleared her throat. "'This just in.' Just-in. Justin."


john said...

you subtle Occidental you....

Peter said...

Ha ha... Good one.

Stuart said...

I know that it's cliche to say LOL, but seriously when I read that I literally laughed OUT LOUD. Oh, the Chinese.

Alix said...

As Dad would say, "The Mysterious East strikes again!" Wow. I wonder how long it took them to find that connection...