CHINA: Tea, Biscuits, Perry Mason and Journalism


Can China and the U.S. ever get along?

That was the obvious subtext of an informal discussion recently between key members of a visiting group of senion journalists from Mainland China and staffers from The New ASIA MEDIA, the popular online magazine at LMU.

On the afternoon of June 14, in the Asia Media office at Loyola Marymount University, Asia Media’s Tom Plate, Editor in Chief and Founder, Ben Sullivan, Senior Editor, and Staff Writer Elodie Introia hosted a panel discussion with six prominent Chinese journalists. Mr. Liu Liqun, the President of the Qinghai Daily, led the delegation that came to the U.S. for training practice and to meet U.S. journalists in their professional element.

LMU was one of its first stops.

The two-hour event was organized by East West Center in Honolulu with the support of the All China Journalists Association in China.

Over tea and biscuits, Professor Plate delivered a general presentation about the American perspective on Asia, especially China. Plate pointed out that American mainstream media outlet are unfortunately all too comfortable rehashing simplified images of Asia – a trend that has been changing only gradually. The Chinese Delegation expressed interest in Professor Plate’s long commitment to covering Asia (since the early 1990s) and the difficult search for a balanced viewpoint.

For his part, Professor Plate offered an unusual approach, likening it to the fictional lawyer Perry Mason’s ‘always trust that the client is innocent until proven guilty’ theory. The approach is simple: Go into each story with an open mind, not assuming China is either wrong or right.

To further explain his points, Professor Plate offered a special gift to the delegation: personally inscribed copies of his book ‘Confessions of an American Media Man’ (2007, 2010). And he offered some general thoughts based on his new book ‘In the Middle of Future: Tom Plate on Asia,’ a selection of his newspaper columns on Asia over the past two decades.

In response, the President of China Reform Daily Mr. Wang Hanmin and ACJA’s (All-China Journalists Association) staffer Wang Lin opened a free-flowing exchange of views with Plate and ASIA MEDIA Senior Editor Sullivan. With the gifted assistance of Sean Zhang, special assistant to the editor-in-chief of ASIA MEDIA, and a bilingual Chinese native, the jokes and references were translated smoothly.

plate1-copy1000x454Both sides agreed on the need for balanced coverage of both China and America — the world’s most important bilateral relationship. Both exchanged opinions on how to improve the professional skills on journalism, with Professor Plate provocatively proposing that would-be-journalists generally avoid journalism schools. “Learn useful skills,” he insisted, “like economics or a foreign language or public policy!”

The Chinese Delegation continued their training sessions in Washington D.C. and New York City after they finish visiting L.A. The staffers of Asia Media of LMU wished them best of luck.

Finally, the Asia Media Center of LMU expresses its gratitude to Marilyn Li from East West Center, who coordinated with the LMU Department Secretary Ezster Zakarias, in organizing this successful event.

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