Thursday, July 15, 2004

Interlingual Bridge-Building 

I had the pleasure of translating a Shenzhen Economic Daily article on an interview with Jonathan Kay of the the National Post. Jonathan had asked on ATB for the help.

This is the version that currently appears on ATB. Note that I retained the original article's paragraphing structure, which may make for a difficult read. I might clean up the dialogue for readability when I get around to it.

And oh, I'm happy to offer my translating services to bloggers if they need it (although I can only do Chinese). At least it's better than Babelfish!

Around noon on July 5th, I met with Jonathan Kay, Comment Editor of the National Post. Because this is my first official interview in Canada, Ai Lin invited Dr. Stephen to accompany me. The National Post is one of Canada's only two major national newspapers, and is well known as a political conservative newspaper. The Right is not particularly popular in Canada, but the National Post goes against this tide, giving it a "countercultural" spirit that fascinates me.

Jonathan led me and Stephen for a brief tour of the editorial department, and then suggested to chat at a restaurant, for he hadn't eaten yet. The restaurant was within several minutes' walk of the office. We began the interview once we sat down. Jonathan was an honest man, his answers straightforward.

I asked, "People say that the National Post is a right-wing newspaper. Do you openly state your right-wing position?" Jonathan replied, "Yes. Our position is open, such as our support for the free market and the United States." I asked, "Is the position of a right-wing newspaper a political decision or a market decision?" Jonathan replied, "It's a political decision. Before the creation of the National Post, the majority of Canadian newspapers were left-wing, and we needed a right-wing paper to counterbalance."

I asked, "Is there the occasion where a reporter or editor is a leftist, but must write with a right-wing perspective because they work at your newspaper?" Jonathan replied, "You met a fellow [on the editorial board] named Adam Radwanski in our opinion department. His beliefs are rather left-wing, but he has to write with a right-wing perspective [when writing editorials]."

I asked, "Is this a rule of your paper['s editorial board]?" Jonathan replied, "Yes." I asked, "The convention on news media says that the media should be neutral, balanced and objective. How do you feel about this?" Jonathan replied, "That's impossible [as a general proposition]. Forget commentary; that would be difficult even with reporting. After all, news reporting goes through a selection process."

Jonathan was very calm throughout the interview, only showing surprise when we discussed the management techniques of our respective newspapers. I asked, "How do you deal with mistakes by reporters or editors?" Jonathan replied, "We inform them of their mistake, and then print a correction if necessary." I asked, "Any monetary punishment?" He replied, "No." I asked, "If a reporter gets an exclusive scoop, is there a bonus?" He replied, "No." I asked, "Then how do you reward or discipline your staff's performance?" Jonathan replied, "If someone repeatedly makes gross mistakes, he is terminated. If someone's performance is outstanding, he is promoted. But we will not use cash incentives for daily performance."

He asks back, "Why? Does your newspaper use cash incentives?" I replied, "Cash incentives are one of our often used management techniques. A reporter that makes a mistake in a story is fined, while someone that has a good story receives a bonus." "Really?" Jonathan, who has been talking and eating at the same time up to this point, puts down his silverware and looks at me, slightly shocked. At this point, I was also surprised, because their management style reminds me of the way in China 20 years ago. We were both surprised, but about totally different things.

I received an e-mail from Stephen the day after my interview with Jonathan. He told me that Jonathan wrote about our chat on the National Post web site. I checked and found that Jonathan had written about the discussion about management at the editorial department. Jonathan wrote that he was too speechless when he heard me explain my newspaper's cash management techniques. He wrote, "It's weird to think of a newspaper operating like that. It was weirder still to be being lectured about cash incentives by a journalist from the world's biggest 'communist' country."
UPDATE (Jul 21, 7:00 PM): The paragraph structure was lost in the ATB version when they upgraded the blogging system. They have permalinks now, so the overall effect is positive, but this is a lot more readable.
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