Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Chen Story: A lesson in Oz reporting


   Chinese dissident Chen Guangcheng finally got out of China. Looks as though he will be attending New York University Law School. I hope he finds time to lecture at the Columbia School of Journalism.

   I read today's New York Times report about  Chen's arrival in New York. Quite long. I had to read all the way to the last paragraph to find out his protests were about forced abortions and forced sterilizations. I already knew this, but only because I had searched the Internet for background when I read earlier stories or heard news reports about him on television.

   The Chen story is a fine example of  the journalism courses taught at the University of Oz where the first rule is "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."

    The Times report described Chen as a "blind legal advocate." Does that mean he wants the law to be blind? I read earlier news accounts that labeled him a "blind dissident." For a long time I thought he was protesting for more guide dogs or a Chinese version of the ADA.

    The major league media weren't the only opinion makers to dance around abortion and sterilization when writing about Chen. Susan Ariel Aasronson, a prof at George Washington University, was given a column in the San Francisco Chronicle. She was described as "the author of books and articles on trade, corruption, Internet freedom and human rights." She never once mentioned forced abortion in her piece headlined "China's corruption plight." She did say Chen "worked to expose government human rights abuses, including mistreatment of the disabled." That was all.
     Some will probably blame this oversight on "media's liberal bias," but we all know that is a myth - like global warming, Sure, there's a liberal bias, but that doesn't mean a reporter with backbone can't do the right thing. Besides, a "pro-choice" backer can see that this is a matter of  choice, thus making government force the issue. No. I think the problem results from quickened technology. It is just too easy to go along with whatever the omnipresent media banter dictates.

      Remember Steven Mosher? A student at Stanford University a few decades ago, Mosher exposed forced abortions in China, but the issue quickly became the quality of his scholarship.
     "Chen Guangcheng and I have been fighting the same battle for years," Mosher said in a news release in which he said he had witnessed "forced abortions, coercive sterilizations and infanticide in China." Yet, even he described Chen as a "blind, self-taught attorney" and saved the abortion reference to near the end of the news release.


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