Friday, February 12, 2016

China's young reporters give up on journalism: 'You can't write what you want'

When a 7.9-magnitude earthquake ripped through Sichuan province in May 2008, Lin Tianhong, a 29-year-old reporter at China Youth Daily, was one of the first to volunteer to head into the disaster zone.

“Everyone wanted to go,” he recalled. “Otherwise, why be a journalist?”

Hours later the Beijing-based reporter was flying towards Sichuan’s shattered countryside for what would be one of the most horrifying and defining moments of his short career in journalism.

For the next two weeks Lin trawled the disaster zone writing a series of devastating frontline dispatches. One article, Back Home, told the story of a couple who carried the corpse of their teenage son, Cheng Lei, home for burial after digging him from the rubble of his six-storey school.

“His mother wanted to put new clothes on him, but Cheng Lei’s body had grown stiff,” the journalist wrote. “The couple knelt before his corpse, stroking his hands and feet, calling out his name over and over again.”

The heart-wrenching article earned Lin the respect of his editors and the adulation of a generation of Chinese reporters. But fast-forward seven years and the former high-flier has abandoned his notepad and pen and given up on journalism. Full story...

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