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Wednesday 18 April 2007

'Scaring the hell out of China'

Fascinating post by James Fallows on HuffPost about the reaction to the VTech massacre in China.

One reporter called the shooter as a Chinese student on the first night.
Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported Monday that the Virginia Tech shooter is a 24-year-old man from China.
This was then picked up by FoxNews and Drudge - but no-one else - and it then reached China.

Very, very quickly, the Chinese government blocked web access to news stories and downplayed the news internally

All from just one reporter's error, and the story has now been removed (it can only be found here).

The American night was the Chinese day, so it was many hours before the rest of the media's reporting overwhelmed this one report in the Chinese mind.

This Chinese blogger described it as 'scaring the hell out of China'.
During the twelve hours between Sneed’s column hitting the shelves and the official statement, China was quivering. A host of international websites carried the story “Chinese student suspected of Virginia massacre” [Google has this]. The main international news agencies wisely chose to wait for the official statement much to the relief of Xinhua. Alarm bells were ringing on the eighth floor, which is home to the international news department, and there was a flurry of activity to work out how to report the nationality of the gunman.. the senior editors were delighted when “South Korea” was read out at the press conference. Back-slapping and congratulations ensued - one editor said that it would have been a inconceivable loss of face if the gunman had been Chinese.
As Fallows puts it:
Eventually the Chinese started to assume that it must be true. Otherwise, how could an American journalist dare go public, fast and alone, with a detailed claim sure to cause international ripples?

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