If there is one thing you need to read today, this is it: Multiple award-winning veteran reporter Paul Mooney, who has picked up some 10 awards in his last three years on contract with the South China Morning Post (that’s on top of his 19 years freelancing for them before that), says the paper “no longer has the status it had in the late 1990s” and “may be beyond the point of return”. The man to blame for this sad state of affairs is the paper’s new editor-in-chief Wang Xiangwei who made international news last week when an exchange between him and a sub-editor over his decision to reduce a major breaking story on the suspicious death of Tiananmen dissident Li Wangyang to a brief was leaked to the media.
Paul Mooney tells his story of getting sidelined by the former China Daily man:
Sitting in a hotel restaurant in Hong Kong on a hot April day, Wang stared down at the table as the conversation began, seemingly unwilling to make eye contact. After a few minutes of chit chat, I asked him directly about my contract. He fidgeted and said he would not be able to renew it due to budget problems.
To me it was clear that this was a political decision. For seven months, he had basically blocked me from writing any China stories for the newspaper. During that period, I only had two stories in the China pages of the newspaper-one on panda bears and one on compensation for AIDS victims. Some two dozen other story suggestions went unanswered by the China Desk-in one case a story was approved, but the editor told me Wang had overruled him. A half-dozen emails to Wang pleading to write more for the newspaper went unanswered.
It certainly was not about money. Following my departure, Wang hired a spate of new young reporters, many apparently from the mainland. And if there were budget problems, why was I chosen to be let go? Obviously, there were newer people at the newspaper than myself. I had been on contract for two years, and wrote my first article for the newspaper in 1990, some 22 years ago. And I’d won 10 awards for my reporting for the newspaper, more than any other staff reporter.
When I offered to freelance and said I didn’t care about the word rate, he hemmed and hawed. When I asked if the newspaper could at least allow me to keep my journalist accreditation with the South China Morning Post, so I could continue to contribute articles to the newspaper, he muttered something about having to think about it. Despite several emails asking about this, he never agreed to do this. And there was no cost in sponsoring me.
Read the rest of the damning details here.