Time to start the coverage…..
The summer deluge of coverage of the Beijing Olympics is scheduled to start soon, and the networks are poised to spend tens of millions, if not more, on getting the China story into our homes. NBC, of course, has spent $3.5 billion just for the rights, but that, of course, is only the beginning. For more than year, the major networks have been preparing for a China-fest.
I was in Beijing last Christmas, and Tienanmen Square was dominated by a giant ‘countdown’ clock, ticking off the months. days, hours, minutes and seconds to the start of the event. And now, here we are… almost.
Yesterday, I got an email from Jocelyn Ford, a freelance public radio correspondent in China. (see correction in comments NPR v. APR v. PRI)
She wasthe bureau chief for American Public Media’s “Marketplace” bureau in Beijing, and before that, was Marketplace bureau chief in Tokyo. Fluent in both Mandarin and Japanese, she has covered Asia for more than 20 years.
A few months ago, Ford bought herself a small video camera and FCP. She had never, by her own admission, done video before, but she was intrigued. So she started reporting, for no one in particular, in video.
Now, every good radio journalist carries their own tape recorder and edits their own stuff. This goes without saying. And Public Radio reporters are among the best in the world. So I was curious as to what would happen when a great DELNPR radio reporter picked up a camera and started using it to report.
Ford gets great access. Working alone, she is able to uncover the kinds of stories that a massive network crew simply can’t get to. And of course, the cost of her coverage is… well, generally a bus ticket – or sometimes she rides her bicycle. Let’s compare that to what the networks spend for their coverage, shall we?
The most interesting part, of course, is the kind of stories she is able to get access to.
There has been a great deal of discussion in the printed press lately about television’s reluctance to show anything ‘amiss’ in China. They have a kind of unwritten agreement with the Chinese government that the skies will be blue every day.
Ted Koppel, who has just completed a documentary for Discovery on China was recently on TODAY talking about massive repression in China. When Matt Lauer commented that NBC would soon be bringing the Olympics to American homes (never miss a chance to pimp the net), Koppel commented that was quite sure it would be wall-to-wall positive coverage. Lauer was not amused and a look of annoyance crossed his face before he moved on to ‘other stuff’.
Reporters like Jocelyn Ford have no such problems, and as such, despite the fact that their cost of coverage is next to nothing, are likely to give a far better and far more accurate picture of life in China today. That is, if anyone cares to pick up her stuff.
She is making it available as a video stringer.
Here, I think, is a unique opportunity for both television stations and newspapers.