It was the theme of Paul Weaver’s book, “News and the Culture of Lying” (1994), that journalism too often leaves out the good stuff because of the formulas of reporting. I thought of this while watching a Beijing news conference on Hong Kong television.
Presiding was Ouyang Song, vice minister of the Organization Department of the Communist Party of China. He was a youngish man, no gray hairs, and not about to make a political mistake. He cited the statistic that a survey of Party members found that 97% of them are happy with how the Party is do- ing.
By and by came the questions. Shai Oster of the Wall Street Journal began his question by congratulating the Party for the 97% approval, saying that in the United States the RepUbli- cans and the Democrats would be very happy to have such ratings.
He said it in all seriousness, though of course what it meant was, “I am not deceived by your bullshit statistics.”
Ouyang replied, “I would like to thank you for your congratulations.” He said it in all seriousness, though of course what it meant was, “1 am not deceived by the polite form of your snide remark.”
Oster’s story ran in the Asian Wall Street Journal, July 14-16, at the bottom of Page 8. “China Communists Target Private Sector Role,” the headline said. It was a dull story, reflective of its topic. There was nothing in it about the exchange above, which, by the conventions of journalism, was not news.