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Archive for November, 2009

Hope and fear, the world of Murielle

November 30, 2009 3 comments

A Chilean girl dreamt of becoming a poet grew up as a journalist who went undercover to reveal a gang of pimps in Concepcion, the second largest city in Chili. She almost got herself raped. “I try to keep fears to myself; I won’t do things like this again,” said Murielle Gonzalez Oisel.

After 8 years as a Chilean magazine journalist, Murielle is now studying in London for a master degree of Journalism. She is proud of herself having the guts to come to a foreign country where everything is new to her.

“My biggest fear is failing the course and not getting my diploma,” she said. But the same woman has the courage to fight against crimes.

A fearless warrior

In 2007, Murielle worked on a story about a pimp gang recruiting countryside girls to work as prostitutes in Concepcion. She went undercover for three weeks and successfully published her investigation in NOS magazine she worked for.

“I got myself into trouble, and the situation was so dangerous,” the fear at that very moment seemed to strike her again before she continued, “I won’t do things like this unless there are more protection measures.”

Despite the great courage she demonstrated in work, Murielle said she didn’t like challenges in general.

A strong woman

She was a distinguished student and everything worked fine for her, but she somehow got lost after she left college and started her career.

“I used to live in a bubble when I was a student, but the real world is quite different,” Murielle said, “I made many stupid mistakes, and I was afraid sometimes.”

She is not the kind of person who talks to people about her problems. “I put fears inside myself, and I want to be strong outside, now matter how fearful I am,” said Murielle.

Hope and fear

But she used to have somebody to talk to.

“When I was afraid, I used to talk to my mom, but she died in 2001,” she looked up for a moment to keep tears from dropping.

“Now I can talk to my boyfriend. He is willing to do everything for me, even giving up his well-paid job in London and move to Chili with me, if I can’t find a job here after graduation,” Murielle smiled.

Hope and fear. This is the world in Murielle’s eyes. This is also why she likes this verse in Whiteman’s poem: “Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done.”

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Gordon Brown is playing tough

November 29, 2009 Leave a comment

British prime minister Gordon Brown put forward his Afghanistan strategies during the Commonwealth summit on 28 November. Afghanistan president Karzai now faces bigger pressure from international communities, particularly, from the US and UK who contribute the most troops in the country.

Mr. Brown’s statements were made in an imperative tone, a rare phenomenon among world leaders.

Within three months, our benchmark is that the Afghan government should have identified additional troops to send to Helmand province for training.

Within nine months, President Karzai should have completed the process of appointing 400 provincial and district governors.

Some 5,000 additional Afghan troops should be sent to Helmand province to be trained by British forces stationed there.

A shameful president

Despite sitting in the No. 1 chair in Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai is not treated as head of a country. Brown speaks to him as a father sets rules for his child.

Karzai made so much efforts, even cheating in elections, to ensure himself a second term as Afghanistan president. He should be humiliated for neither pooling enough domestic support nor winning respect from his overseas counterparts.

Strong Brown

Gordon Brown, meanwhile, is pretentiously playing tough to gain points for himself and his Labour party.

The ongoing Iraq inquiry again stirred up the noiseness that UK is a poodle of US. This might cause Labour party’s support ratio to decrease. Brown needs to demonstrate himself not another poodle of the US like his predecessor Tony Blair.

This is proved again on 29 November when he told BBC that Pakistan must do more to “break” al-Qaeda and find Osama Bin Laden.

“If we are putting our strategy into place, Pakistan has to show that it can take on al-Qaeda.”

Sociology of news for semester 2 and online magazine for final project

November 25, 2009 Leave a comment

Two days later, it will be deadline for selection of modules in semester 2 and final project.

So far, I have only decided one module, Online Jounalism. I’m thinking about replacing my other choice of Politicial Communication with Sociology of News.

As for the final project, I prefer working on an online magazine or writting a dissertation, because both allow me to control my own schedule.

Radio final project and TV final project might be interesting as well, but I’ll have to follow others’ steps, e.g. the interviewees or the person I’ll be filming.  

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Rewrite: Southern Weekly’s interview with US president

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Southern Weekly did an exclusive interview with US president Barack Obama during his visit in China last week.

The newspaper editor-in-chief and one of its senior journalists conducted the interview and the 6 questions they asked are:

  • Favorite part about visiting China
  • Whether have spare time to play basketball
  • China-America cooperation in Asia-pacific region
  • Timetable to acknowledge China’s market economic status
  • US restrictions on high-tech export to China
  • Policy on not restraining China’s rise

Sensitive issues such as China’s human rights, freedom of speech, internet blockage, etc. were not raised, or at least, not published.

According to Xing Lieshan, one of the newspaper’s senior editors, the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China was angry about the interview and instructed that no other media or websites should republish the interview.

One reason is that the department was not informed before the interview, the other reason is that the department was not happy about certain issues talked about in the interview.

Mr. Xing explained that interviews with visiting leaders were usually conducted by Xinhua News Agency or CCTV (China Central TV), the two most loyal mouthpieces of the Communist Party, but this time, Mr. Obama handpicked Southern Weekly, probably because of its reputation for speaking for the people and exposing government scandals.

He said the Publicity Dept. is an organization of the Party, and it’s inappropriate for the US side to raise interview request with them; instead, the US delivered request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It was not the newspaper’s fault that the communication between the ministry and the department broke up.

As for those sensitive topics, the newspaper was left with no choice but cutting them out before publishing. Everything happened at such a short notice that they had to leave half of the paper in blank.

However, the newspaper is very clever. They put two lines  in the centre of the blank implying China’s censorship. It says:

No everyone can become a big shot, but all can understand China right here.

PS: This is a revised version of the last post. I tried to apply general writing rules and also online writing rules. Which one do you think is better?

Southern Weekly interviewed US president Barack Obama

November 23, 2009 1 comment

If you get the chance to interview US president Barack Obama, what questions would you ask?

Southern Weekly, surprisingly, was hand picked by Mr. Obama to do an exclusive interview while he was visiting China last week.

Guess what questions the newspaper asked. Huma rights, freedom of speech, or internet blockage? Maybe, but none of these appeared in the published version. (full transcripts in English from white house website )

Here’s a list of questions from the published interview:

  • Favorite about the trip to China
  • Spare time to play basketball
  • China-America cooperation in Asia-pacific area
  • Schedule to acknowledge China’s market economic status
  • US restrictions on high-tech export to China
  • Policy on not restrain China’s rise

The interview was conducted by the Editor-in-chief of the newspaper and one of its senior journalists.

Many readers expressed their dissatisfaction about these unpointed questions, and some even displayed their contempt, because Southern Weekly has been acclaimed for its bravery of revealing social problems and government scandals. But this time, they failed readers’ expectation.

The article, together with a photo of Mr. Obama during interview, occupied only the upper half of the page; on the lower half, there was huge space, with two lines of words in the center saying “Not everybody can become a big shot, but all can understand China right here.”

The implication is that the space was there because the newspaper had no choice but having to cut out certain parts of the interview, thus leaving a huge space on the paper.

One of its senior editors also said that Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China were angry about this interview so that they sent out decrees banning other media and online websites from republishing the interview.

Writing tools: 50 essential strategies for every writer

November 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Writing tools: 50 essential tools for every writer, as the title indicates, is a handy tool book written by Roy Peter Clark.

Roy is vice president and senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, an esteemed school for journalists and teachers of journalists.

Full texts of all handy tools were originally published as blog posts on Poynter website.

When Roy decided to publish them as a book, all posts were shortened to abstract. Nevertheless, you can still read a quick list of these tools, and even download podcasts of some of them. Here’s a few of the tools:

  • Begin sentences with subjects and verbs.
  • Activate your verbs.
  • Fear not the long sentences.
  • Cut big, then small.
  • Get the name of dog.
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • Write toward an ending.

I’ve read all these tools years ago when there were on the web, but sadly, I failed to practice them since then.

I read them, but I didn’t own them. As the last writing tool says: “own the tools of your craft”, I have to use them whenever I write; otherwise, I won’t be able to make them my own.

So, I bought a copy yesterday for £5.82. In 2 days time, it will arrive. Can’t wait to read the book.

A headline that doesn’t make sense

November 21, 2009 Leave a comment

While reading the Times story “Opera Winfrey says goodbye to television talk show after 25 years“, I accidentally noticed another headline which says “Focus on the big issues, not bananas”.

I was so curious that I decided to click through to find out what it is about. Here it is:

Focus on the big issues, not the bananas
Open elections, greater democracy, energy and aid should head the list for Europe’s new leaders

Alas, after 20 words, I figured out what this article is about when I see “Europe’s new leaders”.

I don’t know if there is any cultural connotations in the headline. If not, I have to say this is really a bad headline no matter how “fit” it appears to those who finish reading the article.

The intro is also terrible.  Subject is too long, and verb is too far away from the subject. Even though it comes in S-V-O format, it fails to deliver the message effectively.

I understand this is a comment article, not a piece of news, but still, it could have been better, at least in terms of headline and intro line.

BBC is said to have the best intro for its stories. I searched BBC site and here’s some of its headlines and intros:

  • The Record: Europe
    After weeks of horse-trading and meetings in smoke-filled rooms, the top EU jobs have been appointed.
  • EU foreign head dismisses critics
    One of the two newly appointed figures to the European Union’s top jobs has hit back at criticism that she does not have enough experience for the post.

PS: When I typed the headline of the Opera Winfrey story, I typed “said”, and then I realized it is “says”. This reminded me of what my TV Journalism teacher Richard said over a week ago: “Try to use the present tense to engage your audience” (not the exact words, but the meaning is there. Thanks, Richard. )