Reporters chose the facts to fit a story

Central Station | Nury Vittachi 14 Oct 2020

A former Hong Kong journalist has been caught up in a New York Times' internal battle, I heard from reader Karen Kwa.

Joe Kahn, who edited the defunct Far Eastern Economic Review, is now a senior New York Times editor, tipped for the top job of executive editor.

But he is one of several staff named in an internal investigation into how reporters shoehorned the news to fit a preordained narrative. The result was to demonize a foreign group and ignore "a geopolitical context that includes decades of American policy", said New York journalism professor Alia Malek.

Staff in that case demonized Arabs but it's impossible not to see the same process in their coverage of Hong Kong, with one side beatified and the other demonized - and the same implicit decision to ignore decades of political interference.

Hong Kong people's claims that America sent millions of US dollars to radical protesters were airily dismissed by the New York Times as "a shop-worn canard"--although officials in Washington later admitted they were true.

The Hong Kong Observatory's website was useless as usual for tourists yesterday, with its front page making no mention of typhoons but showing its usual impenetrable graphic. Weather forecast for visitors: Eight flying black pyramids will approach from the northeast.

* * *

There was much laughter among journalists yesterday when protest photographer Anthony Wallace received an award normally given to war correspondents.

While Hong Kong's radical protests did get violent at times last year, there are not many wars in which foreign correspondents can regularly nip back to their Grand Hyatt guestrooms for an oyster-and-champagne break.

Film editor SK Boz said: "Hong Kong must be the ultimate luxury protest destination."

* * *

US leader Donald Trump may have banned the "Made in Hong Kong" label, but this city's civil servants sneakily got their own back. Hong Kong movies are being featured in an international film festival in Greece this week, and our community sent the 1997 Fruit Chan movie called Made in Hong Kong.

* * *

Happy 40th birthday, Shenzhen. Can't believe that place, once so lawless, is now the world's fastest growing city. The first time I visited, I encountered extortion, money laundering, pimping, gambling and blackmail - and that was just at the hotel check-in desk.

* * *

Twitter users reported yesterday that Brian Kern, formerly of the Hong Kong Free Press, has been silent for a month. After the political activist from the American state of Louisiana fled Hong Kong to escape the law against sedition, he defiantly vowed to continue posing as a locally born Hong Kong Chinese writer named Kong Tsung-gan.

But he hasn't. "Too many people know the truth," said our source.

Louisiana, unfortunately, has been hit by two hurricanes and earlier this year had the steepest growth in Covid cases anywhere in the world.

* * *

Wacko former lawyer Gordon C Chang tweeted on Monday that Chinese spies "had infiltrated all American institutions and organizations. We must, as soon as we can, identify, prosecute, expel, and remove these spies, saboteurs, and agents."

One wag replied: "Agreed, let's start with all the people with the last name Chang."

* * *

Typhoon Nangka was named by Malaysia. Disney may be interested to hear that China has put a name into the typhoon names list for use in the near future: Mulan.

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