The Media Story of the Soccer Commentator
At first blush, this is a simple story.
Huang Jianxiang was the top soccer commentator on CCTV. He covered the 2006 World Cup this past summer. He has decided to resign from his job and embark on a career in entertainment. So what? This is no different than scores of former CCTV program hosts who have opted for different career paths in the private sector.
But this case is quite different.
First of all, the resignation of Huang Jianxiang has been hailed by some netizens variously as "a blow to the system," "pursuit of freedom and liberty" and "pursuit of individuality." As brilliant as Huang Jianxiang had been, he was working in a straitjacket at CCTV. His departure is therefore being celebrated as the triumph of freedom, liberty, individualism and all that. Is that so?
Secondly, on the evening before his resignation, Huang Jianxiang was just interviewed by Southern Weekend. The resulting article that appeared on November 23 was unflattering, to say the least. Huang came across as a selfish, egotistical, defensive and aloof figure. The article was accompanied by the reporters' notes, which were even much more hostile. Understandably, Huang was not amused and launched a counterattack on his personal blog. Sorry, but the reporter runs her own blog and launched her own counter-counterattack.
From this melee, we learn the following -- entertainment/sports news is presently free and open in an unimaginable way in China right now. Hong Kong and Taiwan cannot hope to match the ferocity of the media in mainland media. Among the many questions that arise, I leave the following: while it is true that political news is tightly controlled to an extreme degree, do you want it to be just as wild and crazy as entertainment/sports news today? If so, do you think anything is ever going to get accomplished? This is not intended to be an argument for control/censorship in political news as such. Rather, these are resentments that I have about being told within the last couple days about President Bush's daughter being robbed in Buenos Aires (Argentina) (BBC News), or President Chen Shui-bian's son went to the French restaurant Daniel in New York City (Comment 200611#097), or Taipei city mayor Ma Ying-jeou's dog getting a haircut/shampoo (Comment 200611#101). Frankly, I don't give a damn about those news items in political terms ...
Thirdly, this is a situation in which both parties are media workers. Furthermore, they both keep blogs in which they launch attacks against each other. So the missiles do not have to be moderated and restrained by any mainstream media editors in the name of news value, social harmony or whatever. This is futher proof that control of mainstream media is no longer sufficient for control of public discourse because the blogs and forums move at a much faster pace.
(Reuters via The Guardian) China's anti-Aussie rant soccer commentator quits. November 17, 2006.
A star Chinese football commentator has quit his job with state television months after a controversial anti-Australian World Cup rant, newspapers said on Friday.
Huang Jianxiang, 38, made headlines in June when he gave vent in front of an audience of millions to his disdain for Australia as they were knocked by a last-minute penalty by eventual champions Italy. "Goooooal! Game over! Italy win!. Beat the Australians! ... Italy the great! ... Happy birthday to Maldini! Forza Italia!" Huang screamed as Francesco Totti converted the penalty to send Italy into the quarter-finals.
"The victory belongs to Italy, to Grosso, to Cannavaro, to Zambrotta, to Buffon, to Maldini, to everyone who loves Italian soccer!... (Australia) should go home. They don't need to go as far away as Australia as most of them are living in Europe. Farewell!" He later apologised for the outburst, but his comments were so widely publicised they were made into a mobile phone ring tone.
Jiang Heping, a sports channel manager at China Central Television (CCTV), told the Beijing Daily that the station had accepted Huang's resignation -- and that it was not related to the World Cup saga. "It is really regrettable for such a wonderful announcer to quit all of a sudden," the newspaper quoted Zhang Bin, a colleague, as saying.
Huang became a household name soon after he joined CCTV in 1994, at a time when Chinese viewers, new to sport on TV, were more used to staid announcers who did little more than read out players' numbers and names during a live broadcast. Huang impressed his audience as a maverick who knew his game, was eloquent in match analysis and proficient in English. But he had been rumoured to have been sidelined within CCTV, a government mouthpiece still criticised by some for its stodgy programming, for his sometimes bold comments.
Huang, divorced with a daughter, had also received negative press for spending too much time doing fashion shoots for magazines and writing a book.
"Perhaps something from within his heart instead of external forces drove him to leave," the Beijing Daily quoted Huang's friend and sports columnist, Li Chengpeng, as saying. "He doesn't like being fettered. Such a talent needs more freedom."
Huang described himself as a "jobless middle-aged man" in a posting on his blog, but it may not be for long. The Beijing News said his next employer could be a youth-oriented national network based in China's financial hub of Shanghai.
Huang Jianxiang: "I have resisted.
A single person who resists a system will obviously be detested."
(Southern Weekend) The Wild and Crazy Huang Jianxiang. By Wu Yuehua (吴月花) and Shi Xin (师欣). November 23, 2006.
On November 16, Huang Jianxiang resigned from his job. Over the past week, this is the hottest event in journalism, sports and entertainment.
At 10pm on the night before his resignation, he told our reporters who interviewed him twice in the preceding ten days: "It is already a miracle that someone like me could survive in the system up to now."
This man who has initialized innumerable controversies has come up with enough gimmicks in his professional career.
On November 6 and 15, Huang Jianxiang was interviewed twice by us. He revisited the "China-Qatar incident," "The Commentary Gate incident," his personality, his professionalism, his likes and his ideals. Our reporters also interviewed a great many of his friends, colleagues and peers in order to let our readers understand the real inner world of Huang Jianxiang.
"Our generation has basically not experienced any hardship. We are different from the generation of the Great Leap Forward era -- just as written in Yu Hua's <Brothers>," In reviewing his history, Huang Jianxiang joined CCTV to become a sports commentator and his career was can be said to be smooth sailing.
"After I graduated from university, I was a tourist guide for three years. At the time, I had just graduated and I wanted a higher-paying job. I led foreign tour groups because the pay for tourist guides was good. That travel agency is now out of business." He was happy to mention that he began his professional career on the snowy winter of November 1993. "On the afternoon when I was accepted for the job, I walked five kilometers in the snow, from the CCTV office all the way to Xidan ..."
Huang Jianxiang achieved popularity suddenly while commenting on the 1996 European Championships. His colleague said, "He was popular and lauded because he can scream the names of Bierhoff and other players instantly, thereby showing the passion of a Chinese commentator." The remarkable thing was that he did not receive formal education, but he won his fans through his professional knowledge and passionate emotions.
<Football> magazine veteran reporter Li Chengpeng's praises may contain a certain level of exaggeration: "It is sad to be a commentator in the same era as Huang Jianxiang." But as a friend, soccer commentator Dong Lu's opinion was relatively conservative, "Because CCTV was at a special stage, nobody was better than him."
"I set the professional standard." This is Huang Jianxiang's famous words of boasting. Self-confidence and self-absorption. This is like his new book, with a photograph of his face taking over the front cover, "going into battle like a man." The word "Battle" is magnified to become eye-catching and daring.
As a celebrity, he tried his best to be friendly. He reminded our reporters several times to read his book. Yes, he tried his best to be honest and open, he was on a school campus tour organized by a certain website ... at that moment, he was talking cheerfully. At the famous Tsinghua University, he kept the composure of a program host. He smiled, he mentioned Ma Yuehan and the spirit of the people and sports. He left the students with an endearing and good image.
"He exudes a sense of affinity, like the big brother next door ..." said Dong Lu.
But he is more like this other person: excessively sensitive, excessively self-confident and excessively defensive. As a "celebrity," he is excessively "emotional." Faced with the public hostility, he does not know how to deal with the criticisms. The public are often merciless towards men who want to exhibit themselves. In 2001, Huang Jianxiang tripped up. In commenting on the "China-Qatar incident," he dared to risk public ire by criticizing then Chinese national team trainer Bora Milutinovic. This infuriated his mass base -- the soccer fans. "Overnight, Huang Jianxiang became 'a rat scurrying across the road,'" said Li Chengpeng with a tinge of joking.
On the night before his resignation, Huang Jianxiang assessed his own role in that incident to the reporters: "I deserved it!"
The incident is over now. Dong Lu said, "As far as the incident was concerned, he was mostly on the losing side. This was not a question purely about success or failure. It depends also on the fact that Milu ultimately led the Chinese team into the World Cup final round. Milu was the only person who led the Chinese team into the World Cup in more than forty years."
A colleague of Huang Jianxiang said, "Huang Jianxiang was a changed person after the China-Qatar battle. His passion was gone. Previously, he would carefully think about how to say every sentence and how to present the analytical data. I think that he was hurt. The fans hurt his feelings. He had been successful because he said what he thought and he poured out his passions. But the situation then was that everyone was cursing him and everyone did not like what he said. So he began to doubt himself. He wondered if he should say something. He wondered if the fans want to see him comment. He underwent a huge transformation in his own attitude towards football. In his commentary, he could keep silence for three, five minutes. He permitted himself to some mistakes. He permitted himself to forget the names of some of the players."
But five years later, he encountered even bigger trouble.
"Why should I pay money to buy a television set and pay money to receive the television signals so that Huang Jianxiang can have a platform to let out his personal emotions? ... when a sports commentator lean so heavily in favor of a non-Chinese team, this is not passion. This is called professionally unqualified." Famous netizen Huocaitou wrote angrily.
During the "Commentary Gate incident" in this summer's World Cup, Huang Jianxiang's passionate comments created a huge storm.
A veteran soccer fan wrote on his blog with a note of sarcasm that this show had less to do with passion than the talent for performing -- this was "over-acting."
On the evening of November 15 at a cafe in the Dongcheng district of Beijing, he leaned sideways against the red soda and we finally got to talk about the relevant problem that caused him a great deal of unhappiness and brought him endless number of questions from the media.
"Yes, I admit that the commentary that time was a 'technical error.'"
"But 70% of the reason was that I had a telephone interview with Zhang Bin afterwards. I attempted to explain and added many more words. If I had said nothing at the time, it would not have given people so many means to create so many distortions ..."
"I would rather call out the wrong name, or catch the wrong action. But I made a high-level technical error. I would rather have slips of the tongue, because they are easier to forgive."
-- Was there a disrespect towards the Australian team?
-- Absolutely not. Do you think that I normally talk like a mad dog? You ought to ask my colleagues about what I am like in my speech and deeds.
"At the time, I was extremely tired as well as charged. I was traveling back and forth for more than 10 hours on an expressway. I was seriously tired and exhausted. Sports commentary requires a high degree of mental concentration, so it expends a lot of effort. Sometimes, there is a compulsive condition as I become worried that I might forget something . I might ask, 'Where is my mobile phone?' when in fact it is right there in my hand."
"Once the first sound comes out, it is out there already -- fatigue can have a fatal impact on the voice -- and you can't stop."
-- Did your condition at the time have anything to do with the breakup of your marriage?
-- I haven't thought about that. Maybe it is related. That would be in March. I was despondent. Maybe a divorce, widowhood, loss of parents could create an emotional burden ...
As for the "those marvelous left-backs for Italy," most people who have watched soccer for more than ten years treat this as common knowledge for which no explanation is necessary. The reporters said.
At that time, the explanation offered by the professional expert Huang Jianxiang seemed to be sincere and reasonable: "Soccer brought me pain." Dong Lu was surprised afterwards: "It is a very hard thing to make Huang Jianxiang admit fault -- he is a very egotistical person."
The facts proved that Dong Lu's assessment of his friend were quite accurate. Huang Jianxiang did not conceal his pride. He added something that made everyone laughed: "Ten thousand idiots won't understand what a genius does; ten thousand geniuses won't be able to figure out the answer to a question raised by an idiot."
After the 2001 "China-Qatar affair" and the 2006 summer "passionate Italian commentary," the wild, crazy and egotistical Huang Jianxiang began to encounter obstacles in communicating and interacting with the public.
Just as some sports reporters do not like Huang Jianxiang, he is full of wariness about reporters.
In his letter of resignation, he wrote: "Certain ill-meaning media who want to parody and hype things were after me. They created all sorts of fake stories about me. They took parts of my regular commentary and distorted them in order to come up with shocking exclusive stories. This caused me great pressure and pain."
Huang Jianxiang just had a bad meeting with another reporter. If you ask about whether he participated in soccer gambling, he would think that you are just looking for trouble. He said, "One time, I almost got into a fight with a female reporter ..."
As a "celebrity," Huang Jianxiang has his grievances and logic: "You look at Zhang Ziyi, Vicky Zhao, Feng Xiaogang, Zhang Yimou. Someone is always slopping dirty water on them. You look at what Dou Wei has to deal with." He believes that the media are mistreating these "celebrities" and that "resisting bullying is a natural reaction."
He has already equated himself with these stars and therefore far more than another "sports commentator" and media worker. In his heart, there is an infinitely large "ego" which is facing the pressures from the outside world with great wariness. "If you don't understand him, you can try looking at him as if he were actress Fan Bingging," said his friend Dong Lu.
This is a man's inner world, proud and egotistical. When a grown man "acts inappropriately," then there is affront and opposition. When the world loses patience, the media and the public become co-conspirators, and alienation and hostility results. In the past, the system alienated people. Today, it includes the media.
In the words of his friends, Huang Jianxiang "rose quickly to the top from youth." He is actually an odd phenomenon within the very demanding system. He is insufficiently restrained and he is overly sensitive and proud. This has caused damage and excessive defensiveness. As a single person who has to survive in the system through obedience, he also wants to show off his individualism. Obviously, there are multiple conflicts. "I'm afraid of nothing!" This is like a young man shouting aloud. Sometimes, he will use the SMS from other people to comfort himself: "So many people say that they dislike you only because many more people like you."
Before the "Commentary Gate incident," he wrote in his new book: "Over the past few months, my life was in chaos. I felt that life was complicated and unbearable in so many ways. At the same time, I have to face many trivial family issues. My inner and outside lives were both filled with painful struggles. I was depressed and pessimistic, even to the point of wanting to give up."
On Bachelor's Day (November 11), he wrote on his blog in a self-congratulatory manner that he is listed as a "gold medal bachelor" along with Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro. He wanted to "encourage himself." He was boastful as well as self-deprecatory.
When his family members take him to court over financial matters, Huang Jianxiang may not be in a normal frame of mind. In his resignation letter to CCTV, he said that he was near "collapse," perhaps to indicate his determination to leave. Actually, on the night before he resigned, he was smiling and happy.
After he resigned, he sent SMS to his friends to say happily, "I am free."
On the day after Huang Jianxiang got his "freedom," the Internet published the so-called CCTV internal "letter of complaint" and Huang Jianxiang's "response."
The media exposÚs eliminated any hope that CCTV and Huang Jianxiang had about a low-keyed approach that they had previously agreed upon. Huang Jianxiang send a SMS to our reporter: "The first wave of exposÚs is lies. There is nothing true in there."
A veteran soccer commentator said: "Before this year's World Cup, Huang Jianxiang was just a sports figure. After the World Cup, he is destined to be an entertainment figure. This is the turning point in his suddenly rising popularity. He has turned from a middle-class person into an entertainment star. Now he needs to turn that reputation into wealth and position."
When NetEase editors set up the special website section about Huang Jianxiang, there was a fierce debate over whether to put the topic in the sports section or the entertainment section.
When Huang Jianxiang was interviewed, he said, "I did not choose entertainment myself. This was not my personal wish. This was the result of the malicious hyping by the media after the World Cup. I was passive. I had no choice."
Some friends believe that Huang Jianxiang is a courageous, simple and straightforward person. Dong Lu said, "Although Huang Jianxiang is a volatile and emotional person during his commentary, he is very rational and detailed in his own affairs. With respect to his resignation, he has definitely considered all the aspects. He is not a rash person and his decision was not made at the spur of the moment."
Huang Jianxiang said, "For our commentary work, we get paid the same no matter how much work we do. CCTV will say, 'You are now so famous. What do you care about the money?' But when you want to earn some money on the outside, they will step in and interfere."
Dong Lu said, "He has his conflicts. He was trying to survive carefully within the system. After his resignation, he will no longer need to think: 'Am I making commentary? Or attending a public event? At a public event, do I have to pay attention of my image as a CCTV program host?' He has been feeling low for such a long time."
"After the 'Commentary Gate incident,' Huang Jianxiang had thought about resigning in his depression. But CCTV's relatively tolerant attitude made him put away the idea temporarily. He is grateful for this. But something happened at the time, because he suddenly found out that he has become the new darling of the entertainment field! This was not what he expected, but it made him feel elated. In the past, he had some friends in the performance fields, such as the boss of the Huayi Brothers, Sun Nan, Na Ying, Jing Gangshan, but he does not actually belong to their circle. He once said, 'No matter how famous a soccer commentator is, he is ultimately just a celebrity within a small circle.' But now the opportunity has arrived. For the entertainment parties, the sponsors and the general public, he has become a star," aid Dong Lu.
Actually, Huang Jianxiang had just done some entertainment warm-ups several months ago.
From August 2006, Huang Jianxiang participated in the judging of the Mr. Esquire contest for Esquire magazine and he attended the public ceremonies; in October 2006, Huang Jianxiang participated in the "School Campus Activities" organized by TOM.com; on October 29, 2006, Huang Jianxiang was the host at the 15th annual Jinji Baihua Film Festival.
"He might have felt that he was competent at the work, and so he decided to leave the system which was restraining him and the commentary work. He decided to get fully into entertainment. He resigned only because he had better development space and direction. Using a marriage as illustration, you used to live under the same roof with a lot of misgivings. After the 'divorce,' it should be a delight if there are no issues with assets and children. This is very similar to how other CCTV program hosts such as Cheng Qian, Cao Ying, Zhao Lin, Fang Hongjin, Liu Yinwei, Wen Qing left too."
"Do you know the figure on his monthly paycheck? 3,500 RMB. Do you know how much he gets paid for appearing at an entertainment activity? It could be more than 100,000 RMB!" said Dong Lu.
After resigning at noon on November 16, Huang Jianxiang said, "I'll go take a nap. I'll be attending the premier of the movie <A Battle of Wits>. I need to look good."
Several years ago, he already thought that sports commentary should be a form of entertainment and performance. But now he wants to leave this profession which had brought him a great reputation, so that he can go unconditionally into the entertainment field which might bring him even greater benefits -- this was not something that any sports commentator could achieve.
"What can possibly stop him from entering the entertainment field, which is more suitable for his development? He must have thought it through. After that, nothing can interfere with his freedom," said Dong Lu. "The world is actually very simple. It is also simple to resign. And Huang Jianxiang is actually not complicated."
After the "Commentary Gate incident," Huang Jianxiang, Dong Lu and Xu Deliang got together to do a comedy cross-talk "for fun." He spent his own money in order to make fun of himself and soccer. With the laughter and applause, he unintentionally eased off part of his public relation crisis.
"My resignation is not like my divorce. I separated from CCTV amicably. I am very calm right now," said Huang Jianxiang. "My life is very simple. My original home is no longer there. This morning, I took my daughter to kindergarten. Then I read books and got on the Internet. I went out to meet friends. I played soccer. I ate. I picked up my daughter in the afternoon. I played with her. After she went to sleep at night, I watched television. I had some social events. There wee some outside activities, such as rehearsing for the comedy cross-talk. I watch soccer on weekends. I update my blog ..."
Deep inside, he has an aspect of innocence, conservativeness and gentleness. When he spoke about his daughter, his eyes sparkled. At Yang Chen's wedding, he joked, "When my daughter gets married, I would like to beat my son-in-law up. A daughter is like a piece of flesh in my heart. How dare he take her away?" Every day, he takes his daughter to kindergarten at 730am by car. Every time he speaks to his friends, he always ends with: "I have to go to bed. I have to take my daughter to school tomorrow morning."
This is one side of him. On the other side, he does not disguise a man's conceit and vanity.
-- Who is your favorite commentator?
-- Will you say different things to different people?
-- It depends on how I feel.
-- Do you believe that your job performance level is high?
-- Wrong. It is the one and only best.
-- Many people will think that you are being conceited?
-- What is wrong with being conceited?
If you attempt to understand more, you will find out that the assessments of this person are mixed. "He brought his professional success into his personal life, regardless of the acceptance by others," said a colleague. "He is relatively proud and aloof. He is not willing to exchange views with others. If you meet him, you might feel ... oh, why is this person so uncommunicative?"
"I also hate many of his flaws," said another colleague. "He has many weaknesses and flaws, and they are quite obvious. He is incapable of overcoming them himself. But he can also create miracles. At certain moments, he can make you remember what he says and attract the eyeballs. Just like his idol Maradona, he is unmatched on the soccer field and he can defeat many opponents. Either you like him or you detest him. He is not a neutral figure."
Many people will tell you about Huang Jianxiang -- he is conceited, he is biased, he is totally egotistical, he is calculating, he is detached from anything that doesn't concern him, and the people around him find him very hard to get along with. But none of this is important, because who does not have themselves as their center? He does not care about all this. He cares about this: I am a performer, I was at the peak once in commentary, I have the sensitive nature of artists, I do not harm people, I earn my own living, I am good to my parents, I like music, I adore people who make music, I have my own tastes in movies, music and fashion. At the same time, he considers himself to be an intellectual. (Could this be because he has published two books?)
So this is Huang Jianxiang: 38 years old, in his prime, just divorced, 4-year-old daughter. He does not smoke, he does not drink, he is handsome. Most of the time, he is strong, extroverted, optimistic, realistic, looks for advantages and avoids trouble. A few days ago, he became a top figure who has left the system and gone fully into entertainment. By nature, Huang Jianxiang is the product of the television era. He relied on the unmatched popularity of soccer in this country to rise to the top. He made a decision to move into the entertainment industry. His choice is no different that most of those entertainment program hosts who left CCTV and the system.
On the night before his resignation, he flipped to page 202 of Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves To Death: "If a people spends its time on trivia, if cultural life is re-defined as endless repetitions of entertainment, if serious public discourse became infantile baby talk, if the people are transformed into passive audiences ..."
He said softly: "I don't think this has anything to me, eh?"
(Southern Weekend) The reporters' notes. November 23, 2006.
From the outset, we might have overestimated the degree of frankness of a certain person, and about the possibility of getting a deep reading about certain matters.
Although Huang Jianxiang has outstanding accomplishments in the special field of soccer commentary, this is ultimately an individual professional track. He is more often mentioned on account of the several controversies" that he "initiated." When discussing these subjects, the interview with Huang Jinxiang becomes a certain opposition without too much room left for discussion. "Because you media do not have (more) freedom to be watchdogs over officials, you are hostile towards rich people and celebrities. You use them as their targets in order to provide relief and amusement for the poor people." Conversation is thus blocked -- he exhibits a certain "excessive defensiveness."
During the conversation, he continued to receive and send SMS. The message to the reporters is this: He is tired of these questions and there is no possibility of communicating frankly with them. The most memorable part is when Huang Jianxiang answered the reporter: "More than 10,000 reporters across China are jealous of you, but you are asking stupid questions." The reporter replied: "A famous foreign newspaper editor has said, There are no stupid questions, just stupid answers."
But he did not listen to that. He no longer needs to listen, because everything has already been decided. On the next morning, he will complete all the necessary steps to quit his job.
Huang Jianxiang's resignation has finally created the stunning sight of public ecstasy. The image of Huang Jianxiang has been defined as "passionate" resistance that was created in the name of "freedom" even though it is subtle and subconscious. As a media unit with national political flavor and the highest influence, CCTV quickly became the target of criticisms. Huang Jianxiang has become a symbol for "resisting the system and pursuing freedom."
In the continuous search for the truth, we found again and again that the actual conditions do not correspond to "Huang Jianxiang resisting the system." Wishful thinking statements in the public arena about "defending freedom" and "pursuit of individuality" are removed from the actual event, and are "over-interpretations." Huang Jianxiang may not be able to take on such a clear-cut symbolic meaning. On the contrary, he is calculating and realistic and he may have to consider the trade-offs in interests.
So this was how Huang Jianxiang left CCTV and the system, and joined in the mighty torrent of the entertainment field. This proves once again that contemporary Chinese entertainment news has become a "miraculous flower" that is blossoming at this time.
(Sina.com) Excerpts from Huang Jianxiang about the Southern Weekend article. November 24, 2006.
-- She insisted that I had to meet with her for an interviewing on the evening of November 15. It was late and I was really tired. The interview was not finished. Later, I promised that I would need her again to finish the interview. But this person wanted to have a create a sensation and published this incomplete interview. Her conscience must have been eaten by a dog! Are you afraid that spending so much effort to present me as a selfish loner could bring retribution to you? Can someone with such selfishness and baseness have so much energy ...?
-- I have ever directly attacked an interviewer or reporter this way. But this dog-fart reporter who does not know Michael Schumacher dared to use his pre-disposed biases and positions to insult me is simply intolerable. On account of you, I will refuse all interviews from the media organization that you work for, even if you demonize me thoroughly. Thankfully, you are not the only newspaper in the world ...
-- The reporters from this newspaper had better stay away. This is like a compulsion. Their peripheral interviewing has even scared people like Li Chengpeng and Dong Lu. This was completely like a conspiracy to totally destroy me, so they had to come to explain. Shameless! Lies! Stupid!"
(Chengu Commercial News via Sina.com) Reporter Wu Yuehua responds to Huang Jianxiang. November 245, 2006.
... For this assignment, I conducted a large number of peripheral interviews in addition to interviewing Huang Jianxiang himself. Of course, the other reporter also did a lot of work. I did not do everything myself. We interviewed principally his friends. The people at CCTV refuse to talk. A pivotal person send me a SMS to say: "I don't want to participate in this stupid business. Sorry, please keep this a secret." Almost everybody asked me to keep their identity a secret, apart from Li Chengpeng and Dong Lu.
Of course, I went there with a purpose. My goal was to get him to open his heart and tell us about his past and inner world in an amicable manner. For example, how he loves soccer; how he was wounded in his marriage but he wants to do his best to be a good father; most importantly, why he has to endure so much misunderstanding and why CCTV would suppress a talented person like him, as well as any other complaints. I would record everything and transcribe everything, including all the punctuation marks. If he wanted to walk about music, all the more better. If he said, "I wanted to be a rock n' roll music player since my youth ..." I might have abandoned my neutral position. But none of this happened. As the report noted, any conversation with him was blocked. This was a petty trick, but I regard this as an excessive defensiveness based upon lack of trust in other people.
To spare his feelings, I even let him clarify whether he gambled on soccer. I did not ask him anything about the divorce lawsuit. Earlier, he had a bad meeting with another reporter. I felt that even though our interviews were not completely frank, it was at least pleasant. I was quite willing to take his mood in consideration. I did not bring up anything that would really make him feel bad. At this time, I wonder if he thinks that I was a good reporter. A very good one? Did he think that I should be satisfied?
With feelings of gratitude, I began to write the article. I wrote for about three days. In order to guarantee that most of the material is first-hand and accurate, I am confident that every quotation can be sourced. I wrote very carefully, in a style that is different from my usual jumping around. This was like writing an academic thesis, only I did not have the annotations. I wrote parts of it, then I called his friends again for a long time and repeatedly, until he began to think that I was not smart enough (yes, a Science and Technology graduate is not smart enough). I did this in order to confirm certain rumors. Therefore, what I wrote was factual. Furthermore, I used other people's words to explain. A reporter is just an intermediary, and an intermediary is not supposed to have personal colors. I did not criticize Huang Jianxiang's individual business, because about 50% of the world considered this to be an art, just as he does. But there will be others who regard it as noise. His problem is this: he is not only a celebrity, but he is also a media entity (i.e. a blogger) who has made many biased statements about himself and others.
So I can state very honestly that I have neither good nor bad feelings about him. I was trying to be fair. In truth, I heard about his even greater flaw during the course of the interviews. This flaw can be expressed with a number of classical sayings. If I wanted to make him feel bad, I could have used these sayings. But I did not feel the need, so I omitted them and therefore eliminated some of the bad things against him. Instead, I brought in some nice things about him for the sake of balance. In that essay, I did not attempt to make him look good or bad. ... In this essay, my voice was absent. By comparison, I am more fair towards Huang Jianxiang than vice versa.
I asked him for more interaction, but he was too busy. I waited for him for to chat with me for more than two hours. I was willing to speak to him again. Every day, I would contact him on my own. Until the day before publication, after we processed the more than three hours of recorded interviews, I was still sorry that I could have the last interview, because I believe that it would have been even more revealing and interesting. He might have been more friendly if he removes his wariness, and that was why I wanted to have another interview. But when the editor wanted to publish the article, the reporter had no choice but to comply. Otherwise, there would be a blank space in Southern Weekend. That might be extraordinary, but it would not be pretty!
During the writing of the article, I have becoming increasingly aware that while everybody in the world thinks rock 'n roll music is wild, I think that the stupid hyping gaming is even more absurd, idiotic and crazy. Everybody is getting tired of this affair, and so am I. I wish this was over. I believe in one thing: all those wishful thinking public talk about "defense of freedom" and "defense of passion" have strayed far from the matter itself and become a form of "over-interpretation." Huang Jianxiang does not recognize this moronic and trivial transformation into sheer entertainment. He does not reflect on it, beyond condemning the media in a rage just like a rock 'n roll singer. There is something that I want to say: In this entertainment era, we don't lack "passion"; we lack more self-restraint and self-reflection.
Here I want to discuss the matter of "self-knowledge." I cannot decide whether his "self-knowledge" is vastly different from anyone else, but I am curious as to why he is so proud and self-confident. It is understandable because many men are like that -- full of confidence as well as flaws. Meanwhile, the women can only smile. This is a man's world and this is the mainstream in the world -- self-confident, loud, seizing the high point in speech, dominating and commanding. This is the era of the strong. Nobody wants to be weak, so we shout and argue. The men become like women in the marketplace, yelling and screaming while doing zero good for GDP growth. Huang Jianxiang's problems are more obvious: he has an inflated ego -- I am like this and you can say anything you want; but if you say something, he may not be able to take it.
Frankly, when I saw the title "The Wild and Crazy Huang Jianxiang," I thought that the editor was too kind. The term "wild and crazy" means something good to me. I know that every artist has a big ego. "Wild and crazy" is quite appropriate for the famous intellectuals in the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern dynasties. If the term were applied to me, I could not be happier. I always believe that in the personality game, you have to pay attention to the occasion and the scope to make sure that you behave appropriately to the occasion. If you go too far and try to play the personality game, I would have to wince. People ask, "Don't you want to fight back?" I said, "I don't want to. There are too many things in the world to worry about. The first snow will fall tomorrow in Beijing. I have to notify a friend in Chengdu. I am too busy."
As a reporter, I am always friendly towards my interviewees. Just as I have been friendly towards Ma Xiaochun, Wu Qingyuan, Jia Pingao, Guo Degang, Zhu Caishen, Jia Zhangke, Yu Hua, Zhu Hao and others. In three years' time, I have written 470,000 words about them. The so-called defense is unimportant. I have the audio recordings.