Take No Side, Tell All Sides — “China’s Wild West” Goes Over A Fine Line

Laura Ling’s story “China’s Wild West” has raised controversy on the issue regarding ethnicity and territories. In this report, Ling traveled to the Gobi Desert.

Ling did a good job in reporting conflicts and giving voices to those uncovered, especially considering the difficulties she had to deal with because of government censorship. However, I would like to see more objective coverage in this story. It would be a better piece of  journalism if Ling reported the facts and let the viewers make their own decision instead of interpreting for them.

In this report, Ling used “it seems” frequently after her description of this area. For example, the reporting crew encountered an unexpected emergent security inspection before its plane took off. All the passengers were ordered to get off the plane and get additional security screening in another van. Here’s how Ling told the story:

“They were Chinese guys; they were not Uighurs. So we don’t know what they were wanted for, but it seems likely that they were involved in any Uighurs separatist activities.”

She didn’t give any evidence on what made her relate the security screening to the government’s suspicion of Uighurs. Then Ling went on by saying, “So it seems that whatever happens, the Chinese government seems to react as if they under the threat of terrorism.”

In the third piece, which was about China’s development and what it means to the Uighurs, Ling showed the viewers the prosperity of the Capital of Xinjiang, Urumqi. She interviewed a Uighur girl named Xia Xia. Ling asked if Xia thinks Uighurs in Xinjiang should be independent. Xia answered, “Why would we like that since our lives are good.” After Xia gave a tour about the modern city in Xinjiang, Ling’s comment is “most Uighurs in Urumqi don’t live like Xia Xia.” I disagree with Ling’s comments. Then she switched the scene to the countryside. As a viewer, I’m confused by the way she led the story. I don’t think it’s appropriate for Ling, who is a reporter, to lead the viewers’ thoughts.

The relevant principles at stake in Ling’s story are about independent monitoring of power and a forum for public criticism. “China’s Wild West” reveals the gray area to the public and monitors what the government is doing. However, in terms of providing a forum for public criticism, the story didn’t maintain an objective position. Instead, it’s more like Ling is telling the story because she thought the Uighurs should be independent, and Ling is passing her opinion to the viewers.

Laura Ling, a Chinese-American journalist, works for Current TV,. Ling and her Korean-American colleague, Euna Lee, were arrested by North Korea in March 2009 while they were filming near the country's border with China.

As to journalists’ loyalty, Ling’s loyalty is neither to the government side nor to the Uighers, but to the public. The Xinjiang area was uncovered because of the censorship, and Ling reported the story to the public. That was the most valuable thing of this story. Unfortunately, Ling jumped ahead and made the judgment for her viewers. Just like the Reuters Handbook for Journalists says: “Take no side, tell all sides.”

Because of the censorship from the Chinese government, Ling could not get any authority sources or any sources from the government’s side. In this way, “China’s Wild West” provides a lot of valuable materials for the viewers to make sense of what’s going on in this area. However, it doesn’t mean that Ling had to make a judgment on this issue herself. Many times, what the reporters are covering are dilemmas; they are controversial in nature. It is so difficult to judge which side is right and which is wrong; there might be no answers to those dilemmas at all. It’s not necessary to give a clear answer to each story. Journalists’ job is to give a fair and objective report to those issues, give voices to those who are forgotten by society and discover the unknown land. Ling’s interpretations to the report are unnecessary and actually added to biases and the reporter’s personal opinion. It has jeopardized what could be excellent journalism. If I were Ling, I would not make assumption for the viewers. Instead, I would explain how we were blocked by the sources and how censorship functions.


Interview trip to St Louis

It took 4 hours to drive round-way to get the interview in St Louis. However, the story paid off and makes the long trip worthy.

I’m covering a story regarding the Missouri Department of Mental Health and the budget cut. To reduce the cost, the department is trying to transfer mentally challenged clients from the large state-funded facilities to smaller community providers. There are a couple of mini stories under this bigger issue, so when I first pitched this story to Phill, I didn’t realize that a lot of stories are related to each other. I started with the closing of Northwest Habitation Center in St Louis, but Phill insisted that there are something about the Bellefontaine, and the parents are very upset. I interviewed the spokesperson from the department, and he blocked my interview with the department director and the habitation centers. With limited information, I thought the story was just about Northwest until I searched Bellefontaine online.

A newsletter from a year ago about Bellefontaine caught my attention. A parent association was fighting against the cut of the department and their attempt to close Bellefontaine. I thought that was what Phill said, but I still dialed the number on the newsletter to get to know more. A parent who replied my phone really move my story a lot further. She told me the department has been refusing new patients to the center so that they could close the Northwest; while the spokesperson told me they close the center because there are not much needy patients.

I was excited to know this. What’s more important and made me proud, Phill called in the department director himself to help me get through the spokesperson. He said he’d prefer me to interview the parents in St Louis, and he was right.

Basically the story is the parents are fighting against the bill that would close state-funded facilities(northwest, bellefontaine, etc). The department is refusing new patients of the state-funded facilities, so the facilities seem to be empty and the department could consolidate them. The state is also trying to transfer more patients to community providers, which would replace those large facilities, but the parents complain that community providers lack of professional services.

Phill was right that I should do an in-person interview. I got incredible interview with 2 bellefontaine parents, 1 Northwest parents, and 1 guardian. I got the copies of the emails between the parents and the department of mental health, including Keith’s response. With their help, I will also talk to a parent who visited a community provider himself. He will give us the pictures he took, so we could compare the community one and the facilities. A parent leader will come to the Capitol on Monday afternoon for a hearing at 1 pm, regarding disabilities. With Phill’s help, Keith will have a meeting with me and other staff of the department on Monday 4-5 pm.

It’s gonna be a long-term story with tremendous human interests.

Up on the 9th Floor — Reflection on The Ninth Floor by Jessica Dimmock

Get The 9th Floor at the Media Storm

I was in NYC for Christmas and the New Year, and the city is still vivid in my mind, for the prosperous and the dark. Jessica Dimmock’s story in NY caught my attention.

I’m impressed by Dimmock’s storytelling, which is done by excellent journalism and the art of photography. The story focus is about despair, addiction, struggle and life. The slide show together with the soundbites are so powerful that it touched my heart. So I watched the slide show repeatedly and paused, thinking and learning Dimmock’s delivery. I noticed that she put a couple of photos from a same setting together, which reveals the significantly different expression on the character’s face in different pictures. I even asked myself, what would be the next facial expression like. This kind of work makes me think.

Also as to the content, Dimmock told us the whole story. She didn’t just provide the pictures, but there was a story there. The young couple loved each other but fought badly at first; their baby turned them to a new life. Jessie struggled with drug addiction and her health became an issue. Yet, we don’t know their future. Their stories and what they have been experienced highlight the impact of drug on their lives.

My favorite picture of Jessica Dimmock

However, this is a controversial story. Privacy is revealed. The darkness on the 9th floor is vividly showed to the viewers. It’s like when you look the flesh under the scar, the process is painful. But that’s where the solution is expected. Journalism is supposed to report these issues, and give voices to people who are not receiving public attention, like the folks on the 9th floor.

I admire this work because it not only grabbed my attention and impressed me with the powerful visuals, it also made me think. I consider it as my journalistic goal. I would like to have the similar effects in my stories.

Inmate Recycling Program in Hagerstown, Maryland

On January 9, I am excited to work on the story, which I set up last week. It’s about a recycling program of the prisons. I heard about the story when I was doing the Christmas trees recycling story. The manager of the landfill mentioned it. I felt it would be a very interesting story to tell people about something they probably don’t know. I followed up, made a couple of phone calls and finally contacted the PR person with Maryland Correctional Enterprises. She told me she was a reporter before, and she helped me set up the time for doing this story.

There are 6 inmates working at the recycling plant, separating and loading plastics, card board, paper, etc. I talked to two of the inmates. I was kind of surprised to see that they really love this job. I was impressed when one guy told me he wakes up 3:30 in the morning to get prepared for his job, and he would volunteer to work even when he is not scheduled to work.

As an intern, I was so glad that I have developed my own feature story. I know it was my passion in journalism that have driving me and motivating me all the time

Garage Arson

I record a newsroom report when I did my internship at WHAG in Maryland. The newsroom live was just for my reel, but the story went on air.

Covering a tragedy

Before I started my internship at WHAG News in Maryland, I told the News Director Mark Kraham that I want to cover breaking news, such as fire. I did cover my first two fire stories during my internship, and one of them was fatal.

I remember in that morning, I was anxiously looking for a story idea because I wanted to get more good stories before I went back to school. Many ideas didn’t work until I heard at least one was killed in a mobile home fire.  I was shocked by the tragedy while my sense of news drove me to the story. I geared up with another reporter Sujata and headed to the spot immediately.

As soon as we arrived the site, we started shooting footages out of the police’s yellow tape while observing the surroundings. The police and fire marshals were still investigating inside, so we try to get more information from the neighborhood. We talked to different people and finally found a neighbor who identified himself as a close friend of the victim family. He turned to be our important source when the victim’s family members had not been there.

Fatal Fire Scene

I would say, this is my best work so far based on my ability to deal with breaking news. The investigation was still going on, so I had to wrap up a package in such a short time with whatever information I had gotten.  What’s more, I would only have had two officials if I hadn’t found the neighbor to add to human interest aspects, although we didn’t use the names of the victims provided by the neighbor since the victims hadn’t been identified. Our station even broadcast the story earlier than the local newspapers.

The most important thing to me about the story is I learned to hold back my emotion, uncomfortableness and fear toward the tragedy and death, and to report the story accurately in a decent manner. I wouldn’t deny my emotion when I watched the burned trailer, knowing that two lives were lost. It is human nature and the respect to lives. However, I told myself that I have to learn to manage it and keep calm, so that I will be able to gather as much information as I could in that situation. I saw a lot of dilemmas and challenges in covering breaking news, especially this tragic story; they made this story important to me and my growth.

Journalism practice at Newsy






Newsy.com is a place that makes me feel real world practice in journalism. I met Jim, Christina and Megan last semester at a journalism students’ network meeting. They are amazingly nice people and introduced me to the company. I started to write story scripts, shadowing Una, who became the manager of Newsychina later on. She had this great idea to produce stories in Chinese and promote Newsy to Chinese-speaking audience, which is a huge market.

We encountered difficulties in terms of entering Chinese market due to the regulation. We began to upload videos on Youtube, but the problem is that Youtube is blocked in China either. This Saturday marks the first day when Newsychina program first reaches Chinese audience: four news stories are uploaded on Youku, which is a Chinese version Youtube, I would say. We didn’t get the chance to do it because it only works in PC, but we use Mac at Newsy. Therefore, I bring the videos to my computer and upload them to Youku. Now they are viewed by Chinese audience, which makes me excited to think about.

I appreciate our talented producer Fiona. During the summer break, we are short of staff, and there would be no way for us to make it without your great efforts and dedication, which are beyond description.

Link to Youku:


Newsy China

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