Reporting APEC: stories from behind the scenes

As big events such as APEC go, the reporting work has its share of hardships as well as anecdotes that always crack you up. Here are a few side stories I think you’d enjoy.

Manners of journalists

There may not be a fixed stereotype of journalists or fixed expectation of how they would react in certain situations.Still, when you see a group of journalists behave like mobs, it comes as a huge surprise.

At the briefing held by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce on November 7, the journalists of a mixed nationality made quite a scene when transcripts of the upcoming speech by two of the panelists, Mr. Lin Guijun, Vice President of University of International Business and Economics, and Ms. Yang Cuihong, researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, were being handed out.

Eager to get hold of a copy, which will help speed up the writing process, the journalists swarmed Mr. Lin and Ms. Yang who were handing out the transcripts, and grabbed the stack of paper as if they were starved beggars suddenly getting a sight of food in front of them.

Things were getting out of control when the journalists turned to fight against each other for a copy and tore up the transcripts in the scramble. The two panelists eventually gave up and just let the journalist act like wild animals hunting their prey. Within a minute, all transcripts were gone. 

“It’s madness,” many complained. But with the transcripts in their hands, they didn't  seem to show any remorse for their very uncivilized behavior.

Hello, Facebook

This has nothing to do with Mark Zuckerberg’s recent visit to China. We have the superb Wi-Fi at the APEC media center to thank for. It is superb not in the sense of speed or stability, but that there is finally a “breach” in the Great Firewall, even though it is only for a week and only at this one designated place.

The ban on all blocked websites has been temporarily lifted at the APEC media center, meaning journalists can access websites such as Google, Facebook, Twitter and the Guardian freely, which have been inaccessible to the Chinese for varied lengths of time, much to the delight of the Chinese journalists.

Of course this important detail made its way into media reports. And then something really interesting happenned. For a brief moment, access to the Facebook website was denied, which was soon recovered. But then the media reports that mentioned the firewall-free Internet access at the APEC media center became culprits of the censors. So, the message from the Chinese government is: you can have free Internet here at this one place. But we don't want the rest of China to know about it.

“Foreign Media”

On the sidelines, the journalists get opportunities to travel around Beijing, thanks to the arrangement of the Beijing Municipal Government, who seized the opportunity of APEC to promote tourism in the city.

Two sight-seeing trips, one to the hutongs and the other to the axile line of the ancient Chinese capital was scheduled for journalists who wished to take part. The hope was to attract as many foreign media as possible.

However, the disappointing reality was that this hope was dashed both times as no foreign reporters joined the tour, giving the Chinese journalists headaches because sans foreigners, there was nothing newsworthy that they could write about.

And that’s when they discovered me, a Chinese who happen to work for a foreign media. All of a sudden, I was at the center of attention, being interviewed by various Chinese media desperately trying to get something out of me so that they could get their job done.

I was so “popular” that by the end of the trip, I had gained a new nickname, “foreign media”. “Thanks, Wai Mei (Chinese for foreign media),” they said when we bid goodbye, “you saved the day!”

Being interviewed as, you know, foreign media. Photo: APEC Media Center

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