Hundreds of journalists now wandering Beijing in search of news

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By MEI DEBAO
Party Congress Correspondent

Journalists discuss lunch options at the Party Congress

BEIJING (China Daily Show) – Pity poor ABC TV reporter Megan Sykes: the 27-year-old broadcaster arrived from New York last Thursday with a crew of three, ostensibly to cover China’s National Party Congress. Now she and her team spend their days wandering the streets of Beijing, looking for something to write about.

“There’s an AIDS village about 30 miles outside Beijing,” suggests cameraman Peter, as the crew awkwardly relax in a cramped Dashilar coffee shop. “We could do that.”

“We didn’t travel 2,000 miles to cover another AIDS village,” Sykes angrily snaps in reply. “Look, sorry, Peter… I’m just tired. And frankly bored of this.”

She’s not alone.

As one of the biggest political events of the decade slides into its second week, many correspondents who’ve flown in especially for the event are waking up to the realization that there’s absolutely nothing to report.

“This is a complete bloody disaster, mate,” says veteran Australian journalist Bill Higgins. “My editor is calling me up every bloody day, asking how we can justify the expense of sending two reporters to China for ten days. I offered him a story about a provincial initiative to promote new dance routines for ethnic minorities in Sichuan. He told me to get off the bloody phone.”

Police report that across Beijing, hundreds of dispirited, disheveled and dejected reporters, from countries such as Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the US, are milling around the capital’s hutong and boulevards, many without a source or even a place to go and meet somebody for coffee.

“These journalists pose a potential problem to stability. If they aimlessly drift through the city, desperately asking questions, looking for stories, who knows what they might find?” asked worried Chaoyang police chief Lin Liu. “We’ve asked the Ministry of Fisheries to hold an emergency press conference – just to get them safely off the streets for the night, and provide them with at least one hot lead.”

Not every journalist is experiencing the same difficulties, however.

Tongaat Masebo, of the state-run Radio Free Zimbabwe, says he simply does not understand what all the fuss is about. “We have run many fine stories this week, and my editors are very happy,” Masebo beams. “If anything, the problem is that I have too much material. I think that many of these so-called Western media are not proper journalists.”

Masebo is not alone in this view.

“The Party Congress is a most rich goldmine of stories,” agrees Majid Gholem-Hussain, deputy editor of the Tehran Democratic Post. Gholem-Hussain has spent the last week providing his paymasters with a series of stunning scoops from his luxurious Wangfujing hotel room.

“We are being hand-fed the choicest morsels of fascinating news by our good friends,” Gholem-Hussain gloated. “Our exclusive coverage is making utter humiliation for those fools at the New York Times and Washington Post. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk,” he added thoughtfully.

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