tv News and Public Affairs CSPAN May 26, 2012 7:00pm-8:00pm EDT
party. another division might compete with that. it happens and american business all the time. here we have a partially owned entity, verizon wireless doing a deal with some cable companies. at the same time we compete -- it happens in business all the time. verizon wireline will do whatever they do with fios. it is not affected by this deal. >> finally, it is an election year. congress is not terribly active at this point. the do you x factor anticipate -- would you like to see congress take on telecom reform after the 2012 election? >> as a ceo of a company in this industry, i would say yes. the last two acts of congress
the magazine company that was getting into the television business. the cable company is spread out. >> this is "the communicators." we are talking to the chairman and c.e.o. of time-warner. >> you have been watching "the communicators on c-span. this is our weekly look at tems policies and issues. next week our coverage from boston and the 2012 cable show
egyptian presidential election with professor shibley telhami. and then at 9:15, colbert king. >> stay with us for "news makers" with debbie wasserman shults. she talks about the political landscape for the u.s. house and senate this year and money and politics. it is on c-span tomorrow. >> welcome to old cowtown museum. today the mayor will be talk about the problem we're having in the city with taxicabs. so 9:20, hang on for that if you will.
>> june 2 and 3 book tv explores the heritage of wichita, kansas. >> we're a modest looking people , but what it contains is an alphabetical listing of the members of the house and senate done in 1831. i believe it was issued only, as it says here, for the member's immediate use only. they were not supposed to loan this out because it would tell exactly where everyone lives, so you could go punch him if you didn't like him. >> on c-span2 and c-span 3. >> next, a discussion about journalism in china and censorship by the country's government. topics include the blind chinese
curiosity is not welcome in china. >> cultural or political? >> questions about politics. generations are not comfortable talking about politics in restaurants. i think that the internet has done a lot. >> you have been around a few times. have you really watched the broad sweep over this as a journalist and editor. how do you analyze the courses improving and maybe the courses that are retro grade? how do you see the picture evolving?
>> first of all, thank you for organizing this panel. thank you for inviting me. and gleagses, your "news makers" are wonderful. you can look at china in a snapshot as much as anything. if you look at china in a snapshot, obviously all the things april is describing are real impediments to getting good journalism. getting a visa. i seem to spend as much time as any other ambassador trying to get -- getting a visa is difficult. you have to assume your conversations are being listened to. the people you interview will be interviewed again after you interview them. if you compare if to the 1980's
when some of the journalists here were probably there, it is a far different world. people are willing to let their names be used. one of our reporters in china, keith richburg, is spending full time on their equivalent of twitter, just monitoring the social discourse april talks about. information is abundant. so that's on the political-social level. on the business or economic front, you know, when i first moved to hong kong in 1984, there were these jesuits in hong kong. they had been convicted by the communists in 1949 and had gone to hong kong and set up camp there. they were reporting on china, trying to get the facts right out of china. they would go down to the calvin railway station and try to figure out the state of the pepper -- petrochemical business
in china. that is very different. they probably have people dedicated to covering the state of the petrochemical business in china. that is not in anyway to say it is easy today. and people will be able to assume this. i sense there is a closing down of access. china is getting impatient with the way things are being handled. >> it is sort of astounding, as you think about it, the president of china is -- has never given an interview i think to any journalist. >> one of the things that will be interesting to see is whether the incoming president is more open. i heard someone at a lunchon
when he was in los angeles whether he was there, he did not sit down and eat lunch. he just walked around and met people. so maybe it will be different the next time around. >> i think after a few generations of leaders there is a certain amount of hope followed by a reality check followed by the capacity. >> that's true. you always think the next president of the united states is going to be nicer to reporters than the one before. at the risk of sounding libe a ger i have a -- sounding like a geriatric reporter, it makes you picks up on stories that the sanctioned reporters are always there for the press conference.
there is a new generation making a change. to me that's what they did. that's extra coverage to be on the outside and the inside. that's a good thing. >> so you went to russia. >> i did. >> and what kind of comparison do you have? >> the thing about the russians is they love to talk. you couldn't get them to stop talking. in china it was a little harder to pull stuff out, and people were so -- you had to spend such a long time talking about the fact that you were a foreigner and that you spoke chinese and that you commented on that for a long time before you could start asking questions. i think russia in the time of
glastnost was more open than china in the 19 0's. i don't know about today. you do have a more southern region or chinese provocation doing interesting things. and the internet has been absolutely transformtive. but then you can't get into tibet or china. >> one of the fascinating things a couple years ago, foreign journalists set a precedent. i'm guessing that they thought because the violence seemed to be directed against huang chinese, that they would get the same kind of press as those others that came in. >> the village sort of rose up local officials and sort of had an underground railroad for foreign correspondents to get in because they had been blocked off. i think that is an interesting
development that even chinese villagers understand the importance of a foreign media and the reporting that foreign reporters can do about events in china is significant for people inside china, too. that's a really new development, and that level of awareness of the foreign media. so this occasion was unthinkable. >> in the west, i would say, has suffered much damage in the last 20 years or so. in the certain sense, the paradox of many americans who are not so green as the chinese, this is sort of a negative? >> oh, orville.
>> i'm just guessing. would you care to elaborate? >> speak wg these activists that had organized and captured the attention of the international media and made the changes in the government or the central government take notice. still very few people read the foreign media in china. they say to really understand china, you have to learn english .
but the government has gotten so much better in working with the foreign media. there were two cases -- actually, it was so interesting to watch the coverage of the downfall of the mayor tong ching because there were really salashese -- salacious stories that came out in the first three weeks that somehow the chinese government diverted the national media to the affair between his wife and this british guy that got her son into boarding school in britain. and it seemed to go -- the chinese government has often
done that with its own people. they have blamed -- after the downfall of a leader, they will escapegoat the wife to maintain the integrity of the -- and the reputation of the leadership of the party. so they took the attention off of the mayor and put it on this salacious affair. sort of like after mao tse --
mao zedong died and they put his wife on trial. >> i want to know -- there is still a lot of really good journalism being done. april is one great example, and there are more. [applause] >> it is an interesting question . certainly if you sit on a pulitzer journey you realize the papers would never kind of invest that -- papers would probably never invest that kind of money. mark, as you look at our coverage of china, do you find the paper has trouble now financially justifying it?
>> i kinet of dispute the premise. i think there are some newspapers that pursue pulitzer prizes and create them in a way -- i think that across the country there are such newspapers. but i think that is not generally what -- i think reporters -- reporters like to win prizes. they seek the accolades. but i think most people that go into reporting and who are capable of winning pulitzer prizes are capable and passionate about what they do. >> but they don't do it all alone. >> that's right. and the institutions -- i don't think -- a pulitzer prize does not do much for you economically, sadly. obviously some of the more traditional legacy interests tuges are facing real financial pressures these days. they think harder about how they
spend their money. but the big interests tuges like the "new york times" the "wall street journal" continue to invest in foreign nufments it is a critical dimension for our readers. our leadership surveys, and of course we're in washington, our leadership surveys show that international news is one of the things they most desire from us. continue to cover china is important for our audience. in addition to that, there is this pressure to cover china from these upstarts -- upstarts is really the wrong word. new media. some which are now quite giant, like bloomberg. you know, large organizations that cover the world for an audience that cares deeply about how the world works. they may be investors, they may
economically motivated. as i said earlier, i think there is more granlallar coverage of china than there has ever been. i don't think you can make the case, as some people do, that there is not the great foreign correspondence that there once was. i think there is great foreign correspondence across the board. there is more information and more people out investigating unanimous there ever has been. >> i must say that the peabodies, which i just came from, person after person is saying, thank you for this prize, because i had to beg the general manager of my tv station for the time to devote for this, and now he'll feel it is justified. i do think those prizes matter to people. and i hope they matter to you. >> yeah, it makes a huge difference. part of what journalists are
paid in is by lines, and it is -- it is not only curiosity. knowing that people are reading it and recognizing it that keeps us determined. >> so what are you all aware of on the chinese side? let's start with you, april. >> ok. >> this might be sort of an odd news source or information source to mention. when i was asking people from
all walks of life in beijing what they thought of chen guangcheng, most of them had not heard of him. one man who did respond was a baker at a dumpling shop. he said he gets his news from a variety of sources. he said the blind lawyer that escaped from the chinese embassy, he had actually read about it on this political forum on his favorite porn site. [laughter] apparently this site has just learned some great techniques of greating around the great firewall of china. as a result they have used those to create a really vibrant forum. a lot of people are sort of on their e-mail lists sending out notices about their new web
address. >> new idea for the human rights watch web site. that's awesome. no, that has to be the overwhelmingly good news, the internet, all the ways of getting over the great firewall of china. it is transformtive. it is huge. it is hopeful. >> the other thing is, i have a very -- i'm sort of -- i'm sure these are shadows on the cake wall. but chinese journalists come through washington and come by the office to visit. if you watch the kinds of questions that you get asked, when i moved back to the u.s. in the end of 1999, most groups were interested in getting a tour of the united states and shopping at century 21. today people come into my office and they are tweeting what we say, which is probably not tweet-worthy, but that never stopped anybody. and they record -- they ask all
these questions about our business file. they ask questions about how do we manage public relations people or what is our relationship with the government, what do we see our role as, lots of questions about the pentagon papers. what exactly was the relationship between the government and the news media. journalists are asking the right questions in china, and those questions lead to certain answers. >> i was visited 10 years ago by a journalist. they don't come in the same regularity as the russian reporters. but there was an evening paper reporter that came by. i had no idea why he was there to see me. so i said, how is your competition with the morning paper. he said, i come out in the morning, too. i said, but you are wan bao.
he said, but that means you are not controlled by the party. if you are an evening paper, it means you are less controlled by the government. >> how do you get soft power? whereas, in a society such as our own, it is somewhat more of a -- it is something you can manipulate. i am wondering how when you look at china and your correspondents look at china are they seeing that playing out. >> there is confusion in china about what good journalism is, public relations, soft power. >> again, i feel a little too
removed to be author at a timive on this, but -- to be authoritative on this, but some people really do understand what the role of media is and understand what their responsibilities are, and they know what the risks are as well. it is like when the high-speed rail crash occurred last year, there was a report in the "washington journal" -- in the "wall street journal," not only did they get the strucks from the propaganda people to discontinue reporting about it. but then some of them kept reporting about it anyway. i think that's a sign that you have serious journalists thinking hard about what is the role of journalists in society.
while point state still controls media and can exert influence, it is a fast country, and there are a lot of people whether in southern weekend or doing a good job. >> serious journalists have as strict restrictions as ever, and in some cases the government techniques for censorship are a little more sophisticated, but journalists are still able to express themselves outside of these constraints. for example, on wibble, the chinese knock-off of twitter. a couple years ago the -- many
journalists were told to run these terrible stories about chen guangcheng. one of the competitors, no one knows who wrote this, but it was a -- it was posted on weibo. someone posted this really sad picture of a clown. the caption was, we take off our masks after the day is done and apologize to our true selves. it was indirect but poignant insight into what journalists are -- how they feel about their constraints. >> i thought one fascinating
example of chinese soft power came from andrew higgins where he has a vin yet -- vignette. there are two people on the cell phones, and they are talking to a chinese diplomat. that's the kind of thing an american diplomat would have done and still do, i think. but that's the role that china is poised to play in the world and should play in the world given its oil interests in sudan and given its role in africa. i think they were as interested in repairing the fragile peace between those two countries as anyone on the outside.
>> how are they expanding their global reach? >> lots of people are going to work for cct when they got fired from pyongyang. it is what it is. nobody made up the chenguangchan incidents. part of the idea of soft pair is that america is a democracy and they have a good story to tell. china has a bad story to tell. it is not a democracy. you can't make up what isn't there. so they have taken two huge gigantic black eyes this year. >> the question i would like to know the answer to is what is it like in asia right now? how is china perceived in the media in the adjacent countries?
the south china sea disputes must rank l the philippines, malaysia, vietnam. >> everybody. >> i don't see how you get around that in terms of exerting soft power. >> the ccp has really been beating the drum beats. the guy who had the -- the dumpling shop baker that many a lot of -- that that had a lot of
sympathy for chen guangcheng and watched the porn said, yeah, we have to go to war and defend our nation. so it does not look like soft power when you are in china. >> do you think the media has had a solitary effect on the way people view the world or are things sort of up and down and just unpredictable? are we making progress in the sense of the great promise of media to inform? >> within china. >> yeah, we could ask the question of america as well, and i'd hate to think of the answer. >> i don't think i know the answer.
>> has the information had a good effect in enlightening society and opening society? >> definitely. i would say it has gone beyond newspapers and magazines in china -- i would say what has gone beyond magazines and books in china is the internet. it is still very much controlled. there are a lot of levers that the government can pull to diminish and -- conversations in ways that are almost undetectable to the average reader or microblogger. but still just the active conversation, i think is -- so
it's a very individual media. it is changing people's attitudes. >> how do you think we are doing here? when you look around the american landscape, how do you assess our state of craze? >> i don't think there is a simple answer to that question. i think people want -- there's a narrative line that journalism is not reaching anybody anymore, that everybody is focused on, in politics, especially, this partisan rancorous debate. and it is all rhetoric on this side and rhetoric on that side. i get e-mails from people that feel strongly about things we writ write on politics.
one of the questions you have to ask is, habits have changed. people used to have only a certain diet available to them. if you look at a small town in the us -- united states, what you had information was wise was probably limited. they couldn't go deep and they probably have really great substance. today if you live in any town in america you can go as deep as you want to go on any subject. people's habits have changed. people no longer start their day by reading a newspaper from beginning to end which is the briefing for that day. they may want to go really deep on the areas that interest them and they may not care that much about all the things that pass them by that they once might have read. i'm not sure that's a really bad thing.
i'm sure there is a line out there that what's going on with information is somehow bad for our democracy. i don't buy that. i think people will seek out the information that they need in order to make these economic decisions because the motivations they have are very powerful. i think they do that today. they say if you ask someone in his early 20's how much he knew about obama's platforms or ideas i'm sure that person knew as much or more than the average person in the 1960's that might have supported mccarthy because the informing was out there and it is conveyed much more effectively. we never knew what people were reading when we published our newspapers 10 or 15 years ago. i sat in shanghai and wrote a 40-inch story about general motors coming into shanghai and
i assumed that every one of the subscribers to the wall street journal was reading that. and i th had -- and we did this poll that found once you get to page 3 only 2% of the people are reading the article. people do seek out information that matters to them. they go deep in the subjects that matter most to them. it is a different way of consuming information. i think rather than bemoaning what was lost, we should look hard at what exists and determine how to channel more information into the news. if you have robust credible journalism, that should appear where the audience is. you should no longer expect the audience to come to you. >> i think these are halcyon
days for information. things used to cruise along on a sort of auto pilot. the change in upheaval ha has been good but it has also meant terrible hard times for a lot of people in media. but at the same time full of opportunity. >> people in china used to say if people would only come here and spend time in china and speak chinese we would have more understanding. i am wondering in your experience with writers, friends, colleagues, who have done a lot of time in china, do people come out of that experience feeling -- what do they come out of it feeling?
what does the experience leave people who spent a lot of time covering china about the country? >> i think a lot of people go to china impressed, but they become pretty embittered in the way they are treated as foreign correspondents. it is very difficult. they become -- not that they were so friendly to the chinese government when they came, but i think they become very clear-eyed about the government. >> i think a lot of people that go to china are quite passionate about china. it is a compelings compelling, important story. it is for most of us, the best journalism we ever did. and if you look around the media today, there are a lot of people who did china nice.
robert thompson of "the wall street journal," and joe klein. i did china. there's a lot of people who were in china in the 1980's and 1990's who are now writing things. we are all pushing for more sophistication in our coverage and deeper understanding of china. i think you see it in the -- in our stories. i am quite certain there are people athe top that care about china and understand how important china is and why china matters. you come out caring about china and wanting to get better
coverage of china. there are all the frustrations that may resonate from having been there. the ability of a legitimate big news organization in the u.s. to be able to get a visa for a serious correspondent who understands china to go to china. china says we want greater understanding, we think it is important for americans to cover us and bring understanding to america. and we say we want to send someone who can speak the language and do a good job and we're met with a stone wall. that, i think, may create some frustration. we'll persevere and we'll fight over that stone wall. >> before we get the questions, let me ask you, your friends in the media, do you notice any difference in at tuthtude among your generation that went above you?
>> i would say, adding, in some ways i would say there is an opposite problem to what marcus and carol were talking about before in that those chinese people who have access to foreigners, and the people who foreign journalists have the most access to and are seeking interviews with are the most privileged, uppercrust whether the wealthiest or powerful party members. so i mean, privileged information comes from privileged sources. privileged sources tend to be the beneficiaries of the current system. there is sometimes the opposite tendency in some journalists to sort of agree more that the -- to sort of be a little more poly anaish about the current
direction of society. >> it is so hard to generalize, isn't it? i think back on china. i loved my time in china. i loved many chinese people. i wanted to strangle some people in the government. it is a great variety. to say what do you think about china is sort of like saying, what do you think of the universe. >> it is inescapeable. history moves forward. there are trends. >> fair enough. >> let's have some questions from you-all. there will be microphones. right here in the front row. i think a microphone is on the way. >> hi.
i'm linda elliott, and i wanted to have you all talk about how you think this situation will affect the chinese press. marcus you talked about these chinese press taking notes on what you do, and we all know that chinese tv is extremely slick. basically we have learned all the methods and technologies that we have used and yet they don't report in the same way we do. this incident has in a sense belonged on the cover. everybody in china is talking about it and everybody knows there is incredible corruption underway. i wonder if that will actually have some influence on the press moving forward. >> who wants to try that one? >> i'll start by saying i don't have any idea, but i would
surmise that the way the chinese press has been allowed to work in the last couple decades is the issues that the government is concerned about the press is less right about. the press can cover environmental problems. the press has been allowed to follow corruption to the extent that corruption does not get too close to the centers of power. even some human rights issues the press is allowed to cover if they are the right issues at the right time. so this is a really interesting situation. here is this corruption case. it is really juicy, but it obviously gets awfully close to the center of power. on the other hand you could argue that the power center is served by abundant coverage of this particular case because it shows how right beijing was to interest seed and remove boshi
focus on -- so is that decision made at "the washington post" that we should focus on chen guangcheng? >> happily for us we were able to cover that. it is just a relative news issue. one story was far more interesting than the other, as important as the strategic dialogue talks may have been. we went with the one that was the human drama, and we played that bigger, as did everybody else. great powers can walk and chew gum at the same time. we in the news media try to do that, too. i felt like the choice we made was probably the right chice which was to focus on the story which was surprising, dramatic, challenged the u.s., challenged china and where the outcome was unknown as opposed to strategic
economic dialogue. >> you know, i was in beijing at the time of the incredible drama happening in the embassy, but the negotiations went on. what that suggested to me was that both sides had decided to be calm, not exaggerate, not play it up to the hit and put fingers in the eyes of the other, and actually i think in a rather business-like manner they worked out the dilemma. i think that was very, very significant. i think it took immense restraint, particularly on the side of china. as you note, at one point, mitt romney skidded out, lost restraint, and called this a dark day for freedom on the basis of nothing, and then he actually recanted, to his credit. so i think that was a very interesting kind of a moment.
maybe the story of that should be a little bit more made public. >> and the face of the "the washington post" today? >> i thought it was an amazing story for the americans because you had to be just a tiny bit sentimental for a moment. it is not every day that we necessarily get to feel so great about our country. you know, the fact that when a blind chinese dissident southbounding chased by hundreds, that he runs to the embassy of my country makes me proud. and it was a great story for americans to know and to hear. it is in some ways an inack --
inaccurate representation of a real story. chen guangcheng is one of the many activists in china. he represents one of the most extraordinary among them. but it was a story that was so compelling to american readers that there is no way it doesn't surpass even timothy geithner. >> yes, but it is not the power story. >> i am a freelance journalist. i wanted to know how serious is the repression of journalists in china today? how does it compare to 10, 20, 30 years ago? >> i would say it is a lot more sophisticated t for example in
financial -- i would say it is a lot more financial. for example, publishers are not being fined to the point where they are shut down. so it is different, but it is probably just as strict as it was 15 years ago. >> there are lots of ways in which subjects are mude -- misunderstood. journalists know what they can and cannot write about. activists who try to use media, whether internet media or other forms to express themselves, they do go to prison. >> i think this will have to be our last question. >> given that in recent weeks --
al jazeera does not now have a bureau in china, if the chinese government chooses to do this one at a time with western news organizations, maybe they decide "the washington post," maybe we don't like what you are writing about us, what effect do you think that will have on the foreign press when it comes to china? i guess the second part of the same question is, if you just take -- the people in power, if they have that same perspective, what do you gain by doing that? >> there have been a number of cases where people have been actually expelled from china. there have been some where people cannot get visas and have to leave china scomprks there
are many, many more who are quietly waiting outside who have not had their applications approved. but thoughts? >> i was telling you earlier before we came on stage, there is a really interesting idea going around right now that journalism is actually in some ways an economic process. >> albeit not very well paid. >> yes. we can't conduct our business the way we would want to conduct our business in a free and open trading environment. clearly this is -- china is not the only country to do this. the authorities have atemmed to give explanations for why they keep people out.
when i was at "the wall street journal" we had a reporter who had difficulty getting a visa, and after a long process and many meetings and much pouring of tea, he's now in beijing for "the new york times." " [laughter] when i got to "the washington post" i was congratulated on getting my guy a visa, and i said i don't care. he's not working for me anymore. no, we're very tickled. it is a continuing problem in china. they view the right to collect information in china as a recindable right. >> hi. i'm with the committee to protect journalists. i wanted to agree with most of what is said in terms of we are also seeing a mixed picture on pushback to chinese journalists
who are getting their stories out, but we are seeing a high number of chinese journalists in prison. a lot of self censorship. and more recently today, basically the partial decimation of an english correspondent on tv. i am wondering if you could look forward and tell me where you see the advantages and disadvantages for journalists and for foreign correspondents in china? do you see them relating to one another and pushing and pulling the authorities? or do you see sort of a divide there? what are the pluses and minuses that you see in that duality? >> one interesting fact is that chinese citizens cannot work as
reporters for foreign news agencies. they can work as information gatherers, but not as fully fledged reporters. but your thoughts. >> i remember the first author prize that was given to libby rosenthal from "the new york times" who had done amazing news about aids in china early on. her reports had been transmitted in chinese and read by the internal party information news type of thing. it had an effect on the people in china, because reporting in china was not as good and they did not have as good of information as they could get from libby rosenthal. so i think people are more aware of what people are writing. more things are being translated
on google. you can know what is being said, even if your chinese characters are really, really rusty. i think the drama, though, in china -- it's a chinese drama. the struggles over the country's future. as i said, the chen guangcheng story is a story about, you know, thousands and thousands of activists and civil society people all over demanding that their government respect its own law, that china respect its own constitution. that i think is really the drama in china today. it is being played out by chinese on the chinese stage. we're bystanders. we can affect it and we can participate at the margins, but it is a tremendously dramatic, i think, struggle going on. i am generally bullish about the future. i think the jet is a giganti