Giant on the move
I’ve been a China watcher for much longer than I’ve been a journalist — Chinese language, literature, history and politics were my passions and the objects of my academic study before I ever found my vocation. And for a watcher of modern Chinese politics, few texts in my 30 years in the field have been as important as the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party.
With a circulation of three to four million, it is one of the world’s biggest papers; with its direct ties to the top Party leaders, it has long been the way official policy shifts have been announced or hinted at.
When I was Reuters China bureau chief from 1991-94, the unalterable start of every day’s routine was to study the newspaper from front to back, trying to piece together the hints contained in an article, an editorial, in the choice of words or in the selection and placement of pictures.
This was the practice of journalists and scholars from the very founding of the newspaper in 1948, a year before the People’s Republic of China was formally established.
To bring you the stunning choreography of the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, Reuters photographers and photo editors do a complex dance of their own — and then a brutal Darwinian whittling down to select just the best and most iconic images to send to subscribers.The team shot a staggering 18,000 frames during the four hours of the ceremony. Only about 850 shots made it to the “wire” — our file of photos to customers. That’s just five percent. Less than a 10th of those were selected for our web slideshow and a typical newspaper subscriber might only print one two or three shots from the selection.
In a brutally competitive world like this, nothing can be left to chance.
One of our most experienced Olympic photographers and editors, Gary Hershorn, attended rehearsals of the opening ceremony in order to plot out key moments that simply had to be captured.
I’m at the Olympics in my role as Editor-in-Chief — that means I’m doing some journalism and some “representational” work as the senior person from Reuters News and Thomson Reuters in Beijing for the Games.
In the representational role, I was invited to Chinese President Hu Jintao’s state banquet along with a score of other media leaders — among them News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, the BBC’s Mark Thompson, AP’s Tom Curley, Russia’s Rianovosti’s Chief Editor Svetlana Mironyuk and Dr. Dinh The Huynh, member of Vietnam’s Communist Party Central Committee and Editor-in-Chief of the Nhan Dan newspaper.
As the world waits for the opening ceremony to inaugurate the Beijing Olympics in a blaze of fireworks and pageantry, I thought I’d give you a peek behind the scenes at the temporary newsroom that will give you the story throughout the Games.
Situated in the main press centre in the Olympic Village, the centre is home to the more than 30,000 journalists and support staff from the world’s media who gather to cover the games.
Balazs Koranyi was an Olympic semi-finalist at the 1996 and 2000 Games for Hungary and since 2004 has been a Budapest-based correspondent, covering mainly political and business news. He will cover the Beijing Games for Reuters.
I was first offered performance-enhancing drugs in 1998, after breaking the Hungarian 800-metre record and making the European championship finals.