IPI World Congress in Taiwan Kicks off with Financial Reporting Workshop
Saturday, 24 September 2011
Event Run by Society of American Business Editors & Writers (SABEW)By: Eva Dou, Communications Intern, IPI
In the throes of the U.S. financial crisis in early 2009, Fortune Magazine Asia Editor William Bill Powell wrote a cover story called, "Is China Sinking?"
"That story was 180 degrees wrong, completely wrong," Powell said on Saturday, addressing a financial reporting workshop marking the kick-off of the International Press Institute's 2011 World Congress in Taipei, Taiwan. "Now the question is, are we going to see a repeat of that pattern?"
The question of whether or not China is ‘sinking’ economically is a hot topic again, as the export heavyweight feels ripples from Europe's sovereign debt crisis, speakers said at the workshop, which was run in conjunction with the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW).
Speakers also discussed other challenges facing Asian countries, including high inflation, the rising number of natural disasters in recent years, labour instability and growing urban populations.
Some of the main issues aren't new. For instance, food safety remains a major story, said Marty Steffens, SABEW Chair in Business and Financial Journalism at the University of Missouri. A slew of adulterated food scandals in China in recent years, from melamine-laden milk powder to exploding watermelons, have made foreign consumers wary.
"Westerners are continuing to fear food made in the mainland," she said. "It has become a major concern among Americans."
Labour unrest will also remain an unpredictable element across Asia, possibly the most underreported one, Steffens said.
While Asia has become a bigger story in recent years, covering it has also become more challenging in some ways.
Randy Smith, Donald W. Reynolds Endowed Chair in Business Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism, said he was concerned that shrinking resources and a crisis coverage mentality are hampering U.S. news organisations' coverage of China. Many newspapers' world news pages are shrinking, and some have abandoned Asian bureaus altogether. Tight finances also prevent extensive in-depth reporting, and force a focus on the crisis-du-jour.
"I think China is an area that's been underreported (in the U.S.) for some time," Smith said. "That's why some things are surprising to us, because it
wasn't on our radar."
However, the budget crunch in traditional newsrooms has tipped reporting toward financial news, said Jonathan Standing, Reuters Taiwan bureau chief.
Journalists from general news organisations like AP and AFP have told him that more and more financial news is on their plate.
"The sort of more traditional pieces, lifestyle stuff, is being done by freelancers or small organisations," Standing said. "The mainstream organizations are focusing on finance, because that's where the money is. Because they're focusing on the finance and the money's coming in, they then expand on the finance."
Lisa Gibbs, Senior Writer at Money Magazine, added that editors are demanding increasing localisation and contextualization.
"Over the years, as budgets have been cut, every story is viewed through the prism of how does this influence the local population, whether it's
Miami, or New York, or Taiwan," she said.