Thursday, August 28, 2008

This week's column: What Happens In Beijing...

Here's this week's column in the Weekly. Forgive the headline; I think my editors were tweaking me. (See the WHHSH discussion near the end of the piece...)

What Happens in Beijing...

How a local newspaper squandered a terrific opportunity


Back when I lived in and covered Beijing earlier this decade, I used to have this odd little game I played with my friends.

My core group included women from Des Moines and Brisbane, Australia, and guys from Seattle, Manchester, United Kingdom, and Victoria, British Columbia. From time to time in our travels across the country, we'd chat up native Chinese, usually people who spoke some English, on a train or at a bar or at a restaurant. Two of my friends were becoming fluent in Mandarin, so they were at that stage when they would try out their language skills.

But here was the game: We'd meet these folks, and we'd introduce ourselves. And I would always go last. My friends would each introduce themselves and state their city or nation of origin.

And then it would be my turn, and I'd say "Las Vegas," and the reaction would be instantaneous. Eyes would brighten at those syllables, the interest would always turn my way, and almost without fail somebody would make a motion as if to pull the lever on an invisible slot machine.

Which is a long way of saying that the Review-Journal sent doofus sportswriter Ed Graney to China, and, in the process of providing the idiot's guide to Chinese customs and tourist destinations and some serviceable coverage of the sporting events occurring there, he missed the best story that was waiting for him.

I have to believe it was right in front of him. There was never a time when I was over there that I said "Vegas"—to anyone, including people who didn't speak a word of English—and didn't elicit a reaction. Surely he discovered this. The only indication we have, though, is a silly blog post about what some Australians, who were also other journalists, thought of Las Vegas, and a short bit about encountering a pair of Chinese interns whose wisest observation of our city was, "One dollar, touch butt."

So I decided to do the assignment for ol' Ed.

Read the rest HERE