Reporters, Let Us Have A Bit More Human Kindness

This is a translation of a blog post at the Tianya Club forum.  Why is this post interesting?  Without the Internet, we would not be seeing how reporters do public soul-searching about their responsibilities and duties, with respect to their employers as well as their subjects.  If they keep this up for five more years, China will have the best media worker ethic in the world ...

[in translation]

I interviewed an amazing female comrade.  Eighteen years ago, her husband became paralyzed in an accident when a pillar collapsed.  For the last eighteen years, she took care of her paralyzed husband and never left him.  Recently, she was diagnosed with leukemia and entered the hospital, and then her story was revealed.

When I saw her, she looked incredibly well.  She was a leukemia patient undergoing chemo-therapy, but she was able to sit up in the bed to welcome us.  Perhaps it was her concern for her family, or the love for her husband that made her stand up and never lie down.  So I thought to myself.

We rolled the camera.  We did the interview.  It ended.  We left the sick room.  We returned to the office.  Frankly speaking, I was off form.  During the interview, we were communicating to reach the key points and then suddenly either the battery or the telephone interrupted things.  But the principal problem was that I had to follow the programming director's instructions to ask some stiffly phrased questions.  Several times when I thought that we making an emotional connection, we were disrupted.

We let her talk a while, and then we made her pause some.  Basically, she was at a loss.  She did not know if she said something wrong, if her posture was good, if her smile was bright or if her speech was fluid, until at the end of the interview she dared not speak up.  Oh, just based on this alone, how can this interview not be considered a failure?  I was responsible, but I had my difficulties?

Why did I not insist on my viewpoint?  Because I really did not have the heart to.  Those pair of honest eyes looked lost.  I really could not bear to observe that as she spoke, she tried to peek at my interview notes.  The look told me that she was lost, as if she was afraid that she would say something that we wouldn't like.  She did not know that if the city party secretary had not come personally to visit her and made a personal donation in his own name, we would not be here doing a report on her.

Therefore, I wanted to let this damned interview be over with as soon as possible, and let her get back into her own life, to give her peace and to make her ordinary again.  Eighteen years of her life was given to a person who never got out of bed and never will get out of bed.  There are elders and children at home, and everything that a man should take care of and not take care of -- she assumed the responsibility.  Everything that a woman should take care of and not take care of, she assumed the responsibility.

But the Goddess of Fate did not offer any good for this plain peasant woman.  She had an inexplicable fever and she was bleeding all over.  Then came the diagnosis of leukemia, and she must then bear the physical pain that ordinary people cannot imagine.  

At this moment, she is lying in bed.  She is probably not thinking about herself but about who will take care of her husband.  As far as she is concerned, there is no better choice than herself.

In her view, she is very common and plain.  There is nothing to talk about.  One can imagine that if not for the fact that she had to stay in the hospital due to leukemia, one would never hear about her.  She would be taking care of her husband in that house, and assuming all the burdens of life upon her frail and soft shoulders.  In her eyes, her life can be narrated in just a few sentences, and there is no need for so many media people to barrage her so many times.

Precisely because we are facing such a plain person, our reporting ought to be plain.  Faced with this brave and strong woman, we should add a sense of awe on top of our respect.  Faced with this person with such an unfortunate life experience, we should add a sense of human kindness on top of our sympathy.  If the subject of the interview is only saying what you want and it did not come from her heart, then is this 'real'?  Is this 'news'?

In reviewing our programs, how much of it is hype and fakery?  When we show up as an authoritative force in front of people, have we considered how they feel?  Did we do everything that we could?  Can we do better?  Do we know how much of our programming is considered for the audience and how much do the audience really want to watch?

Reflect.  Reflect well.