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Lost in translation: Top Chinese editors visit Paper office

for The Brooklyn Paper
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We’re still scratching our heads about it, but this week, four of China’s top newspaper editors journeyed to our DUMBO offices to talk politics, media and, yes, Bruce Ratner.

The editors, from the 300,000-circulation Shanghai Youth Daily, peppered the hard-working scribes of Brooklyn’s real newspaper with questions about how free papers stay in the black (don’t ask us!), what we think of our competition (what competition?), and how we cover powerful people like Ratner (we ask a lot of questions, and Ratner ignores us).

The trip was part of a cultural exchange set up by the State Department, which naturally sees The Brooklyn Paper as a leading voice in the struggle for Truth, Justice and the American Way.

The Chinese editors were concerned with all three, especially how American local governments can condemn private property and turn it over to another private developer via eminent domain.

And all four — Director WeiBin Gong, Editor Lishou Kang, Editor Chang JiangYu, and Executive Deputy Chief Editor Yue Qian — were amazed that The Paper continues to cover development issues with a critical eye, whether or not it adversely affects our ability to get ads from real-estate developers.

We explained that we have no choice. Our competitors regularly print press releases verbatim and Ratner once even published his own newspaper so he could distort, without an editorial filter, the reality of his mega-development — so it fell to us to take up the call to provide readers with objective information about Brooklyn’s largest real-estate development.

It became clear that reporting is done a little differently on the other side of the world.

We asked our Shanghai counterparts, for example, whether they could be critical of their government.

“We can cover some controversial topics,” Yue told us. “For instance, there has been a major drought in one region for several years and many people believe it is because of the construction of the Three Gorges Dam. We were able to talk to those people.”

But, Yue quickly added, that the paper also printed a government report that said the drought was not caused by the construction of the massive dam.

“And that was that,” Yue said of his paper’s decision to print the report without a critical assessment of it.

Like we said, we’re still scratching our heads.

Updated 4:28 pm, July 9, 2018
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