Chinese reporting habits that get your goat

Does anyone know where I can get my hands on resources on journalism / media translation - approaches to the field, techniques - ideally with, but also without, specific reference to Chinese <> English?

I seem to recall that you already joined the Taiwan Foreign Language Editors’ Corner. Have your visited the site recently and had a look through the links?

Right, no takers there (thanks Juba for pointing me to your links). Perhaps the forumosa newshounds can offer some of their own thoughts.

I’m teaching a class on journalism translation at short notice. FWIW I am being paid for this. I’m also dropping more lucrative projects to make space for it. The class is part of a government “back-to-work” program, the students unemployed, mostly under 40, looking to learn new skills (i.e helping me is a [color=orange]Good Thing[/color]).

The translation side of things is straightforward enough. But most Chinese newspaper stories need to be heavily reworked to be passable in English. So what Chinese journalism habits get your goat? What do C>E translators of journalism need to be aware of? For instance:

Structure of leads: Chinese-language journalists like to get the each of the who why where when and whats up there. "In the third such attack this month, a 56-year-old man in Ruifang, Taipei County yesterday afternoon, distraught at losing his job… " In English it needs to be decluttered.

Language traps:

The use of “pointed out” (and sometimes also “noted”) for things that are not facts is my top pet peeve. (Is anyone at the China Post paying attention?)

As for ledes, I’d rather have a condensed graf like the one you gave than the blah-blah-blah nonsense that begins so many stories:

:unamused: Cliche-ridden useless verbiage. A great many stories could have their first paragraphs deleted with no loss of meaning or “color.”

Then there are the many stories that apparently go through what I like to call “the randomizer,” whereby all of a story’s paragraphs are rearranged in random order.

There’s also how writers in the Chinese papers apparently feel a need to state the same information over and over and over. Lots of stories in the Chinese papers could be condensed by one-quarter to one-third with no loss of meaning.

And let’s not forget the editorializing some writers are so fond of.

[quote=“cranky laowai”]
There’s also how writers in the Chinese papers apparently feel a need to state the same information over and over and over. Lots of stories in the Chinese papers could be condensed by one-quarter to one-third with no loss of meaning. [/quote]

Bloody hell yes. The use of meandering introductory clauses to go back over the preceding paragraph. Thank you. More?

Lack of attribution, editorials masquerading as news articles, sensasionalism, i.e. pandering to whatever is the prevailing sentiment at the time rather than making people think, and just lazy reporting where no investigative work was actually done, just the reporter recording the words of whatever government official was talking at the time. Also, “sources say” can be rather infuriating. And long, incomplete sentences such as all of the ones in this post. :stuck_out_tongue:

I would love to chime in here, but I’d only start frothing at the mouth, my ulcer would start bleeding and the anxiety attack that would follow would ruin the rest of my day.

This gets me, too. This seems to be a particularly Taiwanese phenomenon, however, as PRC papers don’t tend to do this. I wonder why?

All of them.


Taiwanese reporting habits that really get my goatee wet are:

  1. using arcane written symbols which appear Greek to me

  2. calling the year 92 when everyone knows its 2003

  3. showing nipples of foreign models on catwalks only, never showing nipples of Taiwanese women in newspapers here. I guess only foreign nipples are permitted as local nipples would be a no no. Why? A nipple is a nipple, isn’t it? Or does something get lost in the translation?

  4. Calling China the mainland as if Taiwan were merely an island off the main mainland, and therefore the mainland is the mother country when in fact there is no mainland. Taiwan is the mainland to Green Island and the Penghu isles.

  5. CAlling the CHINA TIMES, the CHINA Times, for God;s sake. This is not CHina, this is Taiwan. It should be called the TAIWAN TIMES. United Daily News is okay, Liberty Times is okay, but CHINA TIMES gotta go. Who comes up with these titles? Crap.

  6. Apple Daily publishing blood and gore photos of little kids who committed suicide lying in pools of blood on sidewalk. IS this photo really necessary, my GF cries?

I’d rather the newspapers report the facts instead of reporting what they’d like to be the facts, so I have to disagree with you here. We already have way too many reporters making up stories and ‘facts’ to reflect their own opinions. A friend of mine who works for a paper actually had a reporter there change the report criticizing Taiwan’s human rights record to “US lauds Taiwan’s human rights record”. In the article she added that the US was especially happy with Taiwan’s police force. All of this because she felt that was the way it ‘should’ be.

In political news reporting …
the completely unmotivated throwing around of names, especially when there’s a cabinet reshuffle or a resignation somewhere.
The papers seem to be enjoying mentioning the least likely candidates for any political vacancy, with the result that the people mentioned then have to waste their and everybody else’s time calling news conferences to deny all this stuff.

In that league, I’d also like to mention the recent suggestion that Chen Shui-bian pick Ma Ying-jeou as his running mate. OK, some dude down south really came up with this preposterous idea. But that’s no reason for the media here to take it that seriously.
If some local politico in South Dakota said Bush should choose Al Gore as his running mate next year, how many media would take this story up?

Would I be wrong in assuming that you are a good translator but know little or nothing about journalism?
Was this one of those “pop-up” jobs that are just too good to pass up even though you have to BS your way through?

“You need a what? You’re willing to pay how much? Well…sure, I can teach a class in supersymmetry in string theory…I took math in high school, you know.”

But since you asked, among the examples above add a lack of depth and/or logic and fact-checking.
Today President Chen spoke at an “opening ceremony for a sports
tournament.” Then there is nothing more about what sports, how many people participated or anything.
Someone was arrested for alleged credit card fraud. Where did he get the numbers? Story doesn’t say. Did he make cards or use the numbers on the Internet. Story doesn’t say. What sort of things did he buy? Story doesn’t say. Etc.
The vice president says that there are 500 missiles aimed at Taiwan across the Strait. Every specialist on the matter understands that this number is too high. Don’t explain what the real number might be, just go with what the vice president said by itself.

Chinese also like to steal others’ work. A class on plagiarism would be worthwhile.

Another thing I can say is that unless these people are already fantastic translators, the effort they put forth in this class will be wasted. I have worked with news translators for years and have seen translations tests that people have taken to try to get this sort of work and I can tell you, very, very few are remotely qualified for this. Good news translators are rare.

“50 of anything can kill you.”
– Eric Searleman

All around they seem to have trouble separating editorial from news.

I’m annoyed by “foreign bride” stories. Some reporters assume that foreign brides are a problem of some kind, often without saying why. The more open-minded ones point out how the Taipei government is starting programs to rehabilitate them, and teach them how to do things like cook food hubby will like. As a soon-to-be foreign groom, I wonder how any of this applies to me!

China Post:

  • They often runs the SAME STORY twice in the same edition, once by AFP and once by Reuters. Apparently the editors can’t spot this.

  • Their headlines will throw out words like “president” or “supreme court” without noting which country’s is meant. (Often it is American.)

  • They moralized about how wrong prostitution was, but run hooker ads. (Or are those just ads for illegal non-blind massage services, which are clevery-disguised as hooker ads?)

China News:

  • Why do they reprint and translate those conference discussion things in the middle of the paper? What’s the point of that?

Here is a real-life example about a story of Taipei thinking of using ground water to boost supply:

[quote] “The maximum annual withdrawn of water will be 40 million to 50 million tons. The ground water will not be put into the
normal water supply for household use. Instead, the water will be
stored as an emergency reserve,” Chen explained.
So what immediately comes to your mind (that didn’t to the reporter or translator)?
Where will they store all that water?
Answer: We don’t know.

I saw a story ages talking about generating x megawatts of electricity per hour :unamused: huh ? What the hell does that mean ?

Do these people drive at “50 Kph per hour” ?

[quote=“wolf_reinhold”]Would I be wrong in assuming that you are a good translator but know little or nothing about journalism?
Was this one of those “pop-up” jobs that are just too good to pass up even though you have to BS your way through?

I have a fair amount of experience in both journalism and translating. And in the past I did a fair bit of journalism translation. Unfortunately for my students though I have zero experience of teaching. Thanks to all above for their contributions. Lack of depth and omission of pertinent information is normally beyond the power of a translator to repair. I’ll be confining my class to:

What a translator should be aware of and can repair
e.g. Impenetrable leads. Structure. Undue repetition. Use of loaded terms (e.g reform, admitted

Jesus Salmon, you can’t get rid of this – there’d be nothing left! I’ve just been told off for deleting a reference to Albert Shweitzer in a crappy “human interest” crapfest. Some kid doing his alternative service as a doctor in Burkina Faso for a year “internationally reknowned as `Taiwan’s Albert Schweitzer.’”
Mind. Boggles. Need. Beer. Now.

Im shooting a little off topic here but…

did anyone read the back page of the Taipei Times today, sports section bottom left hand corner.
The headline was obviously written by somebody in five seconds , what a mess!

Here is one of my gripes: bogus titles. William Safire calls them “lapses into journalistic shorthand”. It is a problem everywhere, not just at the NYT.

[quote=“William Safire”] Thanks to lazy journalists, people in the news are often finding out that they have been burdened with a long-winded title.

Stylists call a description that becomes closely associated with an individual a “bogus title.” Thus, we have late-night talk-show host David Letterman; consumer advocate Ralph Nader; Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling; and in case you’ve forgotten him, fugitive financier Robert Vesco.

New York Times editors frown on this lazy practice and instruct reporters to use an article in front of the apposite (syntactically equivalent) phrase, which preferably goes after what it apposes. The article the is used when the person is famous or infamous: “the real-estate tycoon Donald Trump” or “the international vice overlord Lucky Luciano.” When the person is of little note, the article a will suffice: “Robert Vesco, a fugitive financier.” [/quote]

[url=][color=blue]Full article here[/color][/url]