It has been three days since the sensational title “Authorities order bars not to serve black people” written by Tom Miller showed up in the supposedly reputable South China Morning Post. I used the phrase “supposedly reputable” because I don’t read SCMP and really can’t directly comment on it. However I vaguely remember someone, in one of the many blogs/forums discussing this allegation, commented to the effect of: “It comes from the SCMP, which has a solid reputation. So I am inclined to believe this is true.” Sorry, I seriously intended to quote that comment here, but I somehow just can’t find it. It must be buried in lots of other comments either questioning SCMP’s journalism standard in this case or blaming China for all the wrongs of the universe. Nevertheless, I logically infer that SCMP must have had a solid reputation with at least some readers up until three days ago.
Meanwhile, many other media companies’ reporters were working hard to dislodge SCMP from the sole ownership of one of the most high profile stories of the year about China. Those bar owners must be dreading the ringing of their telephones nowadays if you believe this comment at Danwei just one day later:
“Four waiguoren [Note: Chinese word for foreigners] called me today asking the same question,” said the owner of Luga’s. “But I haven’t heard anything like what’s described in the article.”
Yet none of them could come up with anything and had to let SCMP keep owning the story of the year. Losers! Why couldn’t they learn from Tom Miller and come up with their own anonymous sources to generate stories as well? Just look at Tom! The day after the original story he already found another anonymous source.
“It’s [the restrictions on blacks] definitely happening. It will all happen in 24 hours.” His revelation comes after the post reported how another bar owner had been verbally warned by Public Security Bureau officers not to serve customers of Mongolian and African descent, while other bars had been ordered to sign chopped pledges to keep to curfews, not allow the illegal sale of drugs, and refuse certain customers.
Psst, Tom, it would be better if you don’t back off with a much weakened description “refuse certain customers”. Your new language makes it sound like you really only talked to just one source, and you generated that particular title the day before with only a single lead. You should have also said something like “authorities did not respond to our repeated inquires” in the first article instead of waiting until the second story to report the official’s flat out denial. By the way, the following line:
“But no one is willing to say so because we’ll all get deported … and have our business shut.”
Brilliant! Now you are safely covered from whatever others may say.
Anyway, things would have been all peachy for Tom and SCMP if Beijing Boyce, who specializes in providing “an independent consumer view of [Beijing]’s bar, drinking and wine scenes”, was one of the sources. Instead, Beijing Boyce was left behind as just a reader of the ground breaking story coming out of his home turf, Sanlitun. Apparently Beijing Boyce loved SCMP and wanted to show his support of the story. So he went personally calling, visiting and chatting with a fair number of bar owners in the area, but apparently managed to miss Tom’s sources. Undeterred, he went bar hopping in Sanlitun Saturday night to witness the rule enforcement, and only to find a scene where Blacks enjoy drinks, play pool, apparently await ban. Puzzled, Beijing Joyce could only conclude:
Apparently the policy is so secret that the police are keeping it from all but a few bar owners who can be trusted to reveal it to foreign journalists.
Strangely, someone actually decided to elevate Beijing Boyce’s total failure in backing up Tom Miller to some kind of heroic deeds in preserving world peace. As “The 463” blog puts it:
who would have thunk that a dude who writes about where to find the best whisky bar in Beijing, might contribute to taking the air out of a potential International Incident?
But I digress. Let’s come back to SCMP. Someone named “Mimi” commented in the Time’s China Blog, which reported the [still yet] “unconfirmed report”:
Has “South China Morning Post” become a tabloid newspaper? …fishy, very fishy…
Well, Mimi, I believe the answer is NO. The real tabloid newspaper does it in a much more no-nonsense manner. Take UK’s Daily Mirror for example:
Black people will be banned from going into bars in Beijing during the Olympics, it was claimed yesterday.
See! A real tabloid newspaper doesn’t bother to pretend that a source, even an anonymous one, needs to be supplied. So SCMP still has some way to go if its goal is to become one. Oh and in that case, CK Lau (i.e., editor of SCMP) could do well to learn from the master of gossiping some tricks for dramatic front page designs:
As far as giving advice goes, here is one for Mr. Tom Miller as well. Tom, when you fill up forms in the future and encounter a section that asks for your profession, please check that little box marked “manufacturing business”.