Tuesday, January 7, 2014

All the News that RMB Can Buy

A winning bid for the New York Times?

Chen Guangbiao is a successful (if rather showy) business tycoon and philanthropist who seems capable of selling just about anything. Last year (as reported in this blog), he sold cans of fresh air for $0.80 each to citizens in China choking on the polluted “for all five senses” air that shrouds major Chinese urban centers. Now he is seeing whether his charms can be applied toward buying something decidedly more daunting – the New York Times. As reported in various media sources (see link below), this near-billionaire has recruited an investor group and a financial advisor to help persuade the venerable newspaper’s owners to sell to him. The price tag? Unclear, because the owners have asserted flatly that the NYT is not for sale.
The publicity-hungry and highly nationalistic Chen has written an Op Ed in China’s Global Times newspaper that he wants to gain control of the NYT to set about "rebuilding its credibility and influence" in its coverage of China. Never mind that most of the NYT’s millions of readers think that it is already a global thought leader. Its ground-breaking expose on former Premier Wen Jiabao’s family wealth (a meticulous piece that both won it the Pulitzer Prize and got its website banned on the mainland) is just one example of the quality journalism for which the NYT is widely known. Apparently, however, Mr. Chen equates journalism and jingoism when it comes to reporting about the Mainland. If by some sad twist of fortune he is successful in his quest, global citizens should be concerned. From a journalistic sense, it would be tantamount to Mr. Chen traveling to somewhere like Wyoming where the air is pristine and pedaling six packs of foul Beijing air. Let’s hope this story is fit for only the funny pages. 

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