The Yau Lop-poon Interview

There is two-part interview of Yazhou Zhoukan editor-in-chief Yau Lop-poon with ChineseNewsNet (Part 1, Part 2).  I am going to translate the most interesting about how the magazine handles the issue of sensitive documents in China.  

ChineseNewsNet:  You spoke about your first job task was to find the commonality about the Chinese.  During the production of the contents, how do you select and plan the topics?  Specifically, how do you find the front-page subject matters that interest the Chinese people everywhere?

Yau: Based upon our market research over the past few years, no matter whether we are in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Asia, Malaysia and mainland China, the most important thing that people care about is still mainland China.  People care a lot about the joys and pains that mainland China has gone through during the modernization.  But when people look at mainland China, they not only want to read publications from China but they also want to read professional reporting.  They don't like the speculative or fictive work such as those from the political commentary magazines in Hong Kong, where false reports are published or semi-true reports are published to be consistent with official propaganda.

When we do journalistic work in mainland China, we have certain concrete news rules.  First, we need to have professional journalism.  We look for first-hand material.  We go to the source of the news and we do not accept hearsay and rumors.  As for value judgment, some people lean right and others lean left on the political spectrum.  We hope to provide a better balance.  There is another thing, we absolutely emphasize that we are an independent civil media organization and not the mouthpiece of any government, financial entity or economic power.  We try our best to get to the truth, and this is what our editors expect and demand of ourselves.

Under these premises and regulations, we have done many investigative reports related to mainland China and we have achieved a number of breakthroughs.  Besides, we are different from the mainland media in some ways, in that we will highlight the changes in China with respect to their connections to the outside and the Chinese people living elsewhere.  For example, in the Yang Rong case, this is not just a problem in mainland China, but it also relates to Sino-American relationships as well as judicial issues about property rights, Wall Street and American law.  Many cases also draw outside responses.  For example, the Nanfang Metropolitan News case drew the attention and support of media workers around the world.  Compared to mainland Chinese media, we pay more attention to relationships between mainland Chinese news and the Chinese people around the world.  This is our accomplishment over these years.

ChineseNewsNet:  When  you spoke about professional standards and the pursuit of truth, you will no doubt encounter certain problems, including what you said about value judgment and keeping a balance.  If you are emphasizing mainland China in your selection of subjects and if information in that country is still not completely open, you no doubt find it difficult to obtain first-hand material, especially on sensitive subjects.  Therefore, how do you achieve that balance in a news story?  How do you uncover the truth?

Yau:  This gets back to the basics.  That is to say, we must cover every aspect of a case.  Sometimes we need to be careful and we need to be able to judge.  Also, during our investigative work, there are some rules that we must obey.  First: Never take any documents.  We will never take any central government secret documents and we don't want any copies.  Second: We never get involved with money.  We will not pay someone to give us an interview.  Nor do we accept money to interview someone.  We will draw no financial interest.  These requirements and rules for the reporters allow us to avoid trouble.

ChineseNewsNet:  You emphasize that you won't take any documents.  Then how do you verify the source of information?

Yau:  We must confirm the identity of the other party.  For example, we may already know certain senior officials.  We will confirm the identities of the officials, or the assistants, or the principals of the case.  Of course, this depends on the journalistic quality of the reporter, to see if he can make a judgment.  Our reports are experienced in these situations.

ChineseNewsNet: When Yazhou Zhoukan quotes a source who wishes to remain anonymous, what restrictions or care do you exercise?

Yau: For a source who is unwilling to divulge his/her own name, we will take certain steps.  Sometimes, this may be a matter of life and death, so we must protect them.  So we try to publish the names if we can.  If the name is not published, then the reporter as well as the editor must know who the source is.  Otherwise, there may be a lot words written but they could be just the speculation by the reporter.  We need to know who said it, but we will protect his/her identity.

In the light of this exchange, the reader may wish to consider what happened in the case of Strait Times reporter Ching Cheong (see Grand Unification of Theories about the Case of Ching Cheong).  It is still not know which 'landmines' Ching Cheong had stepped on.  But considering all the potential theories, do you believe that the Yazhou Zhoukan regulations would have protected Ching Cheong?