The Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times Chinese Website Still Sees Opportunities in Journalism
Have you ever wondered what it is like working for a major News Network? On November 30, 2017, the students and staff of NCCU were fortunate to host distinguished guest, Ching-Ching Ni- the Editor-in-Chief of the New York Times Chinese site. She shared her inspiring journey of becoming a journalist while also describing what it is like working for the New York Times in China.
Ching-Ching Ni began the lecture by sharing her personal life story. She explained that in her early years, she felt disconnected to her Chinese heritage, but as she grew older she became more confident and eager to tell the stories of Chinese people from her Asian-American perspective.
Ching-Ching Ni attended the School of Journalism at Columbia University. She explained that during her studies, she learned the value and importance of truth in journalism. Ching-Ching Ni stated, “Journalism was a great tool because I could use the medium to speak to so many people and tell the stories of the people around me.” Finally, she could portray Chinese narratives to an American audience.
After her graduation, Ching-Ching Ni became a correspondent for the LA Times. She explained that journalism became her platform to tell stories from an Asian-American perspective.
Ching-Ching Ni then explained that she was fortunate to have covered Chinese stories during what some call, the “golden age of journalism” in China. This was in 2008 when Beijing was preparing for the Olympics. However, in the same year the Sichuan earthquake brought attention to the widening gap between prosperous urbanites and struggling rural citizens.
Ching-Ching Ni shared that covering stories about the earthquake and seeing the devastation first hand was an overwhelming experience, so afterwards she returned to the states to concentrate on raising her children and spending time with her family. Ching-Ching Ni exclaimed, “Reporters are human too, and have to see so much tragedy. So sometimes they get post-traumatic stress. It is important to take a break sometimes.” Ching-Ching Ni used her time off constructively by teaching Journalism courses in China. During this time she hoped to inspire students to find their voice and seek truth just as she had done.
Ching-Ching Ni decided to return to the front lines of journalism by taking a position at the New York Times. Ching-Ching Ni launched the Chinese New York Times just as China began its crackdown with censoring the Internet. China has strict policies about what can and cannot be published, so they have blocked the New York Times completely in China.
App downloads are still not permitted, and the only way to access the New York Times articles is through a VPN. Though the New York Times faces many challenges in the Chinese market, they remain committed to practicing journalism “without fear or favor.” Ching-Ching Ni explained that because she strongly believes in the importance of honest news, she has worked tirelessly to provide New York Times content to Mandarin speaking audiences.
The Chinese version of New York Times offers articles in simplified or traditional characters with an option to read English and Chinese side-by-side. The editors take much care and consideration towards providing precise and accurate translations. Currently the Chinese New York Times is available for free, but in the future they aim to be subscription based.
The Chinese New York Times site does not only focus on stories in the economic and political sector. Instead they strive to offer diversified content such as educational stories, columns on “Modern Love,” smarter living sections, and travel articles. They also feature a word of the day feature that helps to show how language is different between China and Taiwan while also describing American slang that may be unfamiliar to a Mandarin speaking audience. Another interesting feature of the Chinese New York Times is their recycled stories from old Chinese political obituaries.
Today the New York Times is gaining popularity due to their mission to write unbiased, true stories. Currently they have 3.5 million paid subscribers, with 2.5 million as digital subscribers. 14% of their users are international subscribers, and they are working now to expand their Chinese and Taiwanese audience.
Ching-Ching Ni explained that social media has become an integral tool in building the New York Times viewership in China and Taiwan. Though Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are blocked, this does not stop people from using VPNs to follow their stories. Since 2015, Facebook has acquired approximately 200,000 followers in China and 300,000 in Taiwan. Even more impressive is their Twitter following which is over 800,000 followers.
Ching-Ching Ni concluded that “journalism is not dead, it is just changing.” She continued by saying “It is a good time to go into journalism, because everyone is hungry for high quality information. We need real journalist to tell real stories.”
When asked how to get a job if one is not technically bilingual, she responded that internships are a valuable place to gain experience, but also do your best to keep improving and learning a foreign language. She continued by explaining that gaining experience takes time. “There is no shortcut. It is the age of the Internet. The skills are different. (People should) Master the tools of today and the tools of tomorrow.”
Finally Ching-Ching Ni concluded by advising that students should not think of traditional ways of doing journalism, instead they should create opportunities for themselves. She concluded saying, “Give me an internship I can’t refuse. Think like a young person.”