The New York Times gets it wrong

Here’s another bone I have to pick with the recent NY Times article on today’s generation of students at Peking University. It claims in its first paragraph that all 32,630 student’s mobiles received a text message in the run up to May 4th warning to “pay attention to your speech and behavior” that day, given the sensitivity of this year. Well, Tony and other students I know have told me that they and their friends they received no such text.

So, make that 32,630 minus a dozen, Sharon laFraniere of the New York Times?

A more general gripe is that the article flits arbitrarily between two reasonings behind the apparent silence from students on the events of twenty years ago: 1) they are too scared of the consequences of speaking up in an oppressive environment and 2) their generation is too far removed from the event to care, especially given their more utilitarian ‘me first’ priorities. Sure, both reasons come into play. But I get a distinct sense that this article simply can’t make its mind up between the two. And it completely misses the fact that Beida students do discuss ’89 – in their dorms, and even in class with their teachers, I have it from students themselves. Obviously less so on record with reporters.

Well, that’s my beef in an otherwise thoroughly-researched piece. And I can’t help but thinking that if hyper-local blogging can call out big media names like the NY Times on little errors (like not every student received that text), then either those big names will have to incorporate that kind of citizen journalism into their news-gathering model, or see themselves called out time and time again until finally their readership goes elsewhere – and they lose that big name. (Incidentally, the New York Times forcing readers to register – try clicking on the link I gave – before reading a piece, instead of giving us the option, won’t help.) Jeff Jarvis is fun to follow on this theme.

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