To China and back

The newsroom of, an English-language website based in Beijing.

My visit to China is done, and although I’ve adapted once again to Eastern Daylight Time, I’m still thinking about my experience half a world away.

My colleague Laura Ruel and I spent about a week working with journalists of the news site. The English-language site has a staff of about 30 people, including a few Americans.

I was impressed with the dedication and skills of the staff. It’s a different sort of journalism — run by and controlled by the government, created in an environment where Facebook, Twitter and most blogs are blocked. Yet, the staff there is doing much of what their Western counterparts do: trying to figure out the best to get the news to readers, in both form and content, while on constant deadline pressure.

I was asked to speak to the staff on several topics:

  • Story editing
  • Headline writing
  • Caption writing
  • Alternative story forms

I covered each of those topics in workshop sessions at the offices. Each went well, and with each session, the staff grew more comfortable asking questions and offering comments.

On my final day in Beijing, I worked with staff members one on one in the newsroom. This was the most rewarding part of the week because I got to help people with the stories, captions and other content that they were working on at that moment.

I also got a surprising compliment from one editor: “Thank you for your help. And I would like to say that you are very handsome.”

Thanks to everyone at the site for their hospitality, and special thanks to Celine Chen for organizing the trip, showing us the city and and allowing us to bring a little bit of  American journalism to China.

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