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December 18, 2008

The Chinese Critic vs. the American Critic

In response to Laura Collins-Hughes entry "The Critic vs. His Paper":

What a relief.  I thought publishers forcing writers to slant their articles a particular direction was just a problem in China.  When I worked as the editor of a Hong Kong-based English publication in Shanghai, the publisher often asked me not to write negative reviews out of fear that we would lose advertising revenue.  My arguments that sales and editorial were separate entities fell upon deaf ears.

How comforting it is to know that American publications, which pride themselves on being more "free" and "objective" than publications in the PRC, are just as guilty. 

Perhaps publishers aren't only at fault.  As John Rockwell says in his response, we journalists often succumb to self-censorship.  I've often noticed book reviews written by an author's peers who don't want to offend the critiqued author.  The results are at worst glowing or at best neutral.  If a book is bad, why not just say it's bad?      

Perhaps the American press should come out from their facade of objectivity and no censorship and allow journalists to accept payment for certain pieces.  Politicians take money from their corporate constituents.  Why can't we? 

In China, people pay journalists to write positive articles.  I am NOT calling this payola, mind you, because payola is defined by Merriam-Webster as "undercover or indirect payment (as to a disc jockey) for a commercial favor (as for promoting a particular recording)."  In China, it's neither "undercover" nor "indirect."  Journalists go to a press conference, and when they leave, there is cash in their gift bag.

Maybe orchestras (if they actually have any money) will start doing that here, too.  Two free tickets, along with two free bills, in your holiday gift basket.  Now, that's an excellent Christmas idea.   
December 18, 2008 4:19 PM | | Comments (0)

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