It's generally not good in this business if you are making the news rather than reporting it. A heated e-mail exchange between the South China Morning Post's editor-in-chief Wang Xiangwei and a senior Western member of staff over the sudden death of dissident Li Wangyang has put Wang firmly in the spotlight.
But not in a way he would wish as the Chinese-language media have gone to town on this story. Wang - whose promotion from deputy editor to the top job in February caused a certain amount of unease because of his close ties to Beijing - was asked on June 7 by the Western sub editor if he "could shed any light" on why Li's death was only reported in a two-paragraph news brief. Wang replied, simply: "I made the decision."
Undeterred, the plucky staff member then asked: "Any chance you say why? It's just that to the outside world it looks an awful lot like self-censorship ... cheers."
Wang - the 10th SCMP editor in the past 11 years and a member of the Jilin Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference - retorted: "I don't have to explain to you anything. I made the decision and I stand by it. If you don't like it, you know what to do."
In a later exchange, the dogged sub editor - who circulated the e-mails among colleagues and is said to be fearful he may lose his job - replied: "Journalistic ethics are at stake. The credibility of the South China Morning Post is at stake. Your staff - and readers - deserve an answer."
We doubt SCMP readers will see this particular "talk of the town" story, though.