One of the most common issues I face when teaching journalism students – especially those from Asian backgrounds – is the need for attribution.
“You can’t just say ‘The 12th National Party Congress is a congress of solidarity, democracy, discipline and renovation, demonstrating its resolve to increase comprehensive and synchronous reforms while promoting the country’s rapid and sustainable development’, ” I tell them.
“You have to attribute the statement to someone, or else it is YOUR position. ”
Perhaps someone should tell the Vietnam News newspaper – although, given that the newspaper is an official mouthpiece of the Vietnamese Government, maybe it IS their position!
I picked up a copy of the paper from a street seller in Hoi An on Sunday, and it is an interesting throwback to the sort of sweet and gentle local paper that you used to see in country towns.
Along with the report on the 12th five-year congress of the Communist Party, there were a mix of features on cookery, travel, a personal observation on the changing traditions surrounding ancestor worship in Vietnam, and even a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip.
What was missing was hard news, of the sort we are used to in the west.
Of course, that was the Sunday edition – the dailies appear to have a bit more ‘heft’ to them.
And it’s possible that sort of hard news is even more prevalent in the Vietnamese language papers (which I can’t read) – but I’d be willing to bet that the report on the Communist Party congress was just as .. circumspect.
Oh, and remember that I mentioned I bought the paper from a street vendor?
When he handed it over, the paper was already somewhat rumpled and he had no sign of being an official seller – so I suspect my copy had already been read by another tourist and then discarded.
If so, kudos to my salesman, for his entrepreneurial spirit!