Assignment China: The Week that Changed the World


AUDIO INTERVIEW:!136&authkey=!AP2PxzfvsO9CFno

China has always had an exotic and mysterious appeal for westerners. Toward the end of the second World War and after 1949, that image was tainted by the idea of a Communist menace and the Cold War. China closed it’s doors to the west after the Cultural Revolution and severed it’s ties with the United States.

But after a series of secret trips made by Henry Kissinger to China, President Nixon declared his intentions to meet with the Chinese Premier, Zhou Enlai, in 1972, and reopen a door that had been closed for almost a quarter of a century.

At the Boston University  College of Communications, Mike Chinoy, former CNN correspondent and senior fellow of the US-China Institute, presented the screening of his documentary, Assignment China, on the historic trip. The event “opened a door which had not really been open at all. It lay the groundwork both in terms of the diplomatic relationship and in terms of improving the public opinion in these two countries that had been enemies and adversaries,” said Chinoy “ and that’s why when Nixon talked about how this is —the week that changed the world— he is right.”

The documentary follows the experiences of some the 87 journalists and reporters that where allowed to be present at the meeting. As it turned out President Nixon, who had not had a good relationship with the press, planned the trip in such a way that the reporters were not allowed to show anything that would hinder the positive image of the Nixon administration as well as the Chinese communist party.

The reporters could only cover the official Nixon events or choose from a menu of showcase places, such as the model farm, the school and the zoo, and were always accompanied by government minders. “Some of the reporters I interviewed described going to China with Nixon like going to the moon, so if you go to the moon and you only see very little, it’s still the moon, and you haven’t seen it before!” said Chinoy.

The reporters that were allowed to cover the enterprise were some of the most famous names in journalism: Dan Rather, Walter Cronkite, Barbara Walters and Dirk Halstead to name a few. The trip was so sensational that “reporters were willing to push their mothers under a train in order to get a place,” as Halstead put it.

Nixon on the other hand, did all he could to avoid including the Washington Post and the New York Times in the expedition, by literally crossing them out as shown in the documentary, but had to relent allowing them each to send one correspondent.

The trip was an enormous success and contributed to better the relationship between the US and China, resolve the question of Taiwan, and open the barriers that had enclosed one billion people from the global market. The consequences are evident today as almost 30 years later, in 2009, President Obama, met with the Chinese President Hu Jintau, under very different circumstances. “Now we are bowing down in front of China saying -give us more money because we are going broke!- we have come a long way from 1972,” said BU Professor, Anne Donahue, who was present at the screening.

The reporters in China in 1972 complained about the staged events and resented what was obviously a Nixon campaign during a very important election year. But while that moment signified for China the beginning of a new openness and transparency, in the US it marked the peak of the ability of the White House to influence and manipulate the press. “Starting with this Nixon trip, the White House figured out how to manage the press, giving little snippets of what they wanted them to se and hear, while not allowing them to get the whole picture”, said Donahue, “Nixon’s two top aides came from the advertising industry, they knew about optics, they knew about what it should look like and how to package it.”

Today in China reporters are allowed to live anywhere in Beijing and to travel anywhere around the country. There are hundreds of western reporters based in China. Also some great media coverage of China has emerged just recently, from the exposé by David Barbosa for the New York Times, that was awarded a Pulitzer Prize, on the hidden wealth of the family of China’s Prime Minister, Wen Jiabao. Also the scandal involving Bo Xilai, the communist party boss, who was toppled and recently tried and convicted in jail, produced some really interesting reporting partly founded on leaks from Chinese sources.

The documentary offers a unique glimpse  into the behavior of the governments of two great nations in relation to the press, and reminds reporters today of the dangers and issues of reporting on the government.


A Selfie Apocalypse?


A survey conducted by the Internet project at the Pew Research Center has opened our eyes to the trends of posting and sharing of pictures and videos online. The survey operates  a distinction between creators, that is people the create original content, that can be audio or video, and posts it on the Internet, and curators (sounds nice doesn’t it?) that is people who take already existing content from the web and post it somewhere else.

The survey shows that compared to 2012, where up to 56% of internet users where creators or curators, the number of people sharing and posting in 2013 has gone up to 62%. The distribution of creators is the following:


What is also interesting is that in all the categories women tend to be slightly ahead of men in regards to posting and creating pictures and videos, and that most of the curators and creators range between the age of 18 and 29. Up to 59% of women, posting photos and videos created by them, as opposed to the 50% of males who do the same.

The distribution of curators instead shows that 49% of women share and repost images already found online, while only 36% of men do the same. here is the distribution of curators according to Pew’s survey:


What might be also interesting 18 % of cell phone users use Instagram. Now here is my problem… The majority of internet creators and curators are women and they are doing most of the uploading, posting, reposting etc… What are they posting about?? A clue might be in the most popular hashtags on Instagram on January 2013:

  1. #Love
  2. #Instagood
  3. #Me

What interest me is number 3: Me. It might hint that the era of the Selfie has only just begun. Those of us that thought it to be just a phase, doomed to fade into nothingness, are up to are rude awakening. We all know that women take more Selfies than men (if you don’t believe me just look the hashtag on Instagram) and they seem to be doing a LOT of it. So prepare for duck lips and random bathroom interiors! The era of the Selfie has arrived! If it where not enough, the Music and fashion industries have taken a keen interest in this medium. The narcissistic tendencies of Instagrammers is not a surprise to anyone, and it might be increasing over time.


How is AJAM targeting young audiences?

So today I would like to analyze how AJAM has been targeting young audiences. First of all on the home page there is a section at the bottom entirely dedicated to gay rights. Statistics demonstrate that 3/4 of young people in America support gay rights, especially on the question marriage. If you click on the link,  there is a large amount of articles on the subject of gay and transgender rights. I am quite surprised since we are speaking of a news organization based in Quatar. Well, maybe it’s just me…

Screen Shot 2013-10-21 at 8.38.52 PM

Also the news agency has been featuring during the past month a large amount of articles on hackers, such as Anonymous,  as well as other articles on computer programs and geeks. The interesting thing is that many of these stories are in a long format, something that is not  normally associated with young people. Maybe AJAM is understanding that the assumption that young people do not read long articles is false. Young people, like most, will read what interests them. Computers and technology must be what AJAM expects it’s hip, smart and young audience to like.

Also the site offers a section, under long form,that is specifically for interactive features. Now, this section is very cool. It is an attempt to make news more interesting, and interactive, by inserting maps, graphs, pictures, audio and video. The pieces imitate the style and idea behind articles by the New York Times, such as Snowfall. The attempt is successful, if not for the fact that the article featured now, on spy gadgets, is rather boring.

Last but not least THE STREAM, that I have mentioned before in my previous post. Not only can you follow the conversation on news issues on most social media features, but also it provides a platform for dialogue with the audience, especially that YOUNG audience that is so key to AJAM’s success. The Twitter feed is OK, i’ll admit, but nothing as exiting as they advertise. On YouTube it is a little different, here is a sample of what the STREAM aims to do and achieve:

This is all for today. I will let you judge the efficiency of AJAM in attempting to reach a younger audience. In my opinion, the long form pieces are quite impressive and interesting, along with providing good news pieces for the web. Check this  one out, on a group of computer nerds in a basement, I really enjoyed it.