Home > media > New York Times journalist responds to rebuttal of their ‘jasmine ban’ story

New York Times journalist responds to rebuttal of their ‘jasmine ban’ story

After publishing my prior post, ““Catching Scent of Revolution, China Moves to Snip Jasmine” – Retarded Government or Retarded NYT?” I invited Andrew Jacobs to respond. He did and I want to share it with you. A friend had also written in to list Andrew Jacobs’ recent articles at the paper, and I want to share that first.

Well, it’s obvious to me what the author’s agenda is.  I went to the NYT site and looked at the last 10 articles he’s written:

Chinese Christians Defend Persecuted Underground Church
Jasmine Becomes Contraband in China
China: Sentence Reduced for Hong Kong Academic
Grim Outlook for U.S.-China Talks on Human Rights
Chinese Detained After Attempt to Hold Easter Services
Confucius Statue Vanishes Near Tiananmen Square
Beijing Church Bucks Government Crackdown
For Many Bachelors in China, No Deed Means No Dates
China Detains Worshipers Over Praying in Public
China Detains Church Members Over Public Praying

See any trend here? 🙂

You decide on what to make of his response. I have little faith Mr. Jacobs and I will ever come to an understanding.

From: Andrew Jacobs
Date: Sun, May 15, 2011 at 8:44 AM
Subject: Re: In all fairness to NYT (RE: Do these journalists have a brain?
To: YinYang

YinYang,
I don’t really know who you are because you are apparently too cowardly to reveal anything significant about yourself on your website. I however, put my name in the paper and my reputation on the line every day. (I’m also listed in the phone book.)

I am of two minds about responding to your post in detail and rebut each point, which would be easy but would it take up way too much time.

And if you were actually seeking the truth, or had any intellectual integrity, I would. But let’s be honest with each other YinYang: you have a very specific goal, which is to discredit a newspaper article that pains you because you think it makes China look bad.
Whatever I say, you will twist and manipulate my words, which judging from this website, is largely what you folks do at Hidden Harmonies.

No matter how many swats you take at the article, there’s no way you will succeed at your game because it was rigorously reported by three professional journalists over the course of several weeks and reflects the reality of the people with whom we spoke. Just to clarify: the article does not say there is a national ban on jasmine, and if you read it to the end, you would also see that it makes clear the ban has not been very effective.

But you are so blinded by your antipathy toward me and the New York Times, you have twisted the story into something it does not say in order to malign my reputation.

I will, however, address one point in your posting because it is particularly galling: To think you disproved my story by making a call to the manager of one flower market -and expect to get a revealing response simply highlights how little you know what it’s like reporting in China.

We go out in the real world, talk to people face to face and gain their trust so we can report the truth — and in some small way dispel the cynical dishonesty propagated by people like you.

Thanks and have a great day,
Andrew

(Please give me one courtesy: If you choose to post my response on your site, do post the whole thing and not just a few excerpts. Thanks.)

  1. Charles Liu
    May 15th, 2011 at 14:37 | #1

    The real story with Shouwang House Church is the restaurant they were holding sunday services didn’t want them using the banquet anymore, and they made a scene in public. Yes the police did detain them (and released them within hours, just like protesters in US who cross the line), but these people violated public disturbance ordinance:

    http://china.globaltimes.cn/society/2011-04/642847.html

    Also look for a 2010 China Daily article titled “House Churches Thrive in Beijing” by Wu Yiyao. Shouwang House Church was featured in the article, demonstrating house churches are de factoly tolerated.

    Thou it is true China has anti-proselytizing law, it is hardly unique. Many US friendly regimes, such as Saudies and Israel both have laws sanctioning proselytization, but they are seldom criticized for doing the same thing.

  2. kchew
    May 15th, 2011 at 14:54 | #2

    We know that the NYT writes from the anti-China perspective. For instance the NYT slandered Bob Dylan when he did not protest while in China. The paper even claimed that Bob Dylan was forced to change his songs while singing in China. Dylan then wrote in his blog post denying the allegation.

    So what is new about this NYT allegation on the banning of jasmine? It is the same old anti-China spin. This story is also too incredulous to be true. Imagine the uproar it will cause when people discover their favourite tea does not have the jasmine scent anymore! These journalists must be really that stupid to think that the Chinese government is that stupid.

  3. Charles Liu
    May 15th, 2011 at 15:23 | #3

    NYT also promoted the “Lanxiang Vocational School is Chinese Military Hacker Central” accusation, and it’s been over a year since facts discrediting the story came out:

    http://www.zonaeuropa.com/20100222_1.htm

    I fowarded this and other evidence to the reporter, as well as to NYT corrections department. To date NYT has not retracted or amended their reporting.

  4. zack
    May 15th, 2011 at 15:25 | #4

    Dear Mr Jacobs

    just because you get paid to go out and get info and report on information doesn’t mean you can slack off on your job and report sensationalist crap for your largely christian audience and their camwhore fans.

    the fact that you were caught out at ’embellishing the truth’ doesn’t mean you can hide behind the ‘oh i use my real name whereas you have the anonymity of the net’ fallacy. you proved yourself to be, at best incompetent, or at worst, a propagandist.

    Let this be a lesson for the future; though it appears standards of journalism at the NYT have slipped.

    Thanks and have a good day,

    Zack

  5. pug_ster
    May 15th, 2011 at 17:54 | #5

    Western Journalism went down the toilet since 9/11 and these ‘journalists’ lacks any objectivity. Now these ‘journalists’ are actually defending their stance. Given the current financial status of NYT, it is a sad thing about these for-profit newspapers because printing this kind of anti-China propaganda is profitable.

  6. pug_ster
    May 15th, 2011 at 19:31 | #6

    http://chinaholisticenglish.org/politics/nyt-vs-china/

    Thought this is a nice blog who seems to have a beef with Andrew Jacobs.

  7. jxie
    May 15th, 2011 at 21:16 | #7

    NYT’s bond rating is way into the junk territory. Taking out Good Will & Intangible Assets, its book value is about zero. With about $1 billion in debts, it’s living off Carlos Slim’s lifeline loan. As it stands, its market cap is at about $1 billion. If not for the hope/wish that a white knight (such as Slim) may scoop it up, this pos (at least in the financial sense) really belongs to a bankruptcy court.

    Partially it’s due to what all old media firms are facing in the Internet age. Some of NYT’s wounds were self-inflicted, such as the bad rap they got from their reporters such as Judith Miller and Jayson Blair — BTW, Blair’s book Burning Down My Masters’ House: My Life at the New York Times may be a decent read.

    Personally NYT’s editorial style drives me nuts, and I rarely read their paper. It doesn’t have the habit of writing pieces with enough who/what/when that you can independently verify them, and exploit the topics further on your own if you want. Often you can’t tell when facts/figures end and opinions start in their reporting. For example, in this piece there are 3 names being quoted, none of which directly corroborated NYT’s version that “the police issued an open-ended jasmine ban at a number of retail and wholesale flower markets around Beijing.” Was that hearsay much like Bob Dylan’s story, which eventually turned out to be falsified by a concert promoter?

    Seeking the truth is far from the primary goal of a typical news media outlet, such as NYT. The primary goal is increasing circulation, page views, etc., and ultimately profit. Now ask yourself, should NYT not “make China look bad”, and report the ground realities that have made only 9% of the Chinese dissatisfied with their country’s direction, according to the latest Pew Global Research data? Would the folks back home who are suffering high unemployment and largely (62%) dissatisfied with the country’s direction like it?

  8. May 15th, 2011 at 22:28 | #8

    Well, Mr. Andrew,

    You wrote:

    Whatever I say, you will twist and manipulate my words, which judging from this website, is largely what you folks do at Hidden Harmonies.

    It’s fine if you think yinyang twisted your words in the post. It’s even fine if you think yinyang’s post is not worth replying to.

    But to accuse this entire site, “all folks” even, to be guilty of “twist[ing] and [manipulat[ing] my words,” well…

    First you have too much esteem. yinyang’s article is the first post here directed toward you. I never have heard about you, read any of your articles, and even if I had, I would probably not have found the time or energy to blog about it, much less to twist and manipulate it…

    Second, how much of this website have you read? I’ll be gentle: how much of the Featured Posts have you read? Did you even read yinyang’s post critically? Do you really think cavalier judgement about this site, all of us contributors, pass any “rigorous” standards of thinking, much less logic?

    Sometimes I do hope reporters apply the “rigorously reported” standard they swear by to themselves. Glancing the subject matter you want to report, extrapolating based on what little you know, and reporting that as reality does not make a story “rigorously reported,” however many “professional reporters” you assign to that story.

    Your hastily composed email to yinyang shows your narrow mindedness. “Reputation” is earned – not demanded. I hope you will actually develop some in the future…

  9. May 15th, 2011 at 23:33 | #9

    @Allen

    Indeed. If he can’t even describe / criticize HH straight, how can he describe / report China right?

  10. May 16th, 2011 at 07:17 | #10

    Simple logic would defeat Mr. Jacobs’ ridiculous “investigative reporting”.

    If there is a symbolic ban of a “flower”, ridiculous as it premised, a government would do so publicly, as a symbolic gesture, not secretively.

    But hey, don’t believe Mr. Jacobs or myself, just look at NYT’s own article, where there was a video of a “Discount 10 Yuan” sign in Chinese propped up on some Jasmine flowers.

    Sure look like a major ban, eh?

    *But seriously, Mr. Jacobs is, if nothing else, unoriginal. Epoch Times had already circulated similar stories back in March. Mr. Jacobs is about 2 months late.

    http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/china/chinese-regime-nipping-third-jasmine-protest-in-the-bud-52644.html

    “Even real jasmine flowers are banned in flower shops”

    *What was that then? Mr. Jacobs just had a deadline due, and had to whip out some half-copied report, to expand and sensationalize a small 1 line from Epoch Times into a major ban? Probably.

    In this economy, an Expat Journalist has to pay the lifestyle somehow. His previous article for NYT was posted more than 11 days before. (No doubt a very slow period for him in China, when his editors in US are breathing down his neck, asking where is his next story, while he goes desperately visiting dozens of flower shops in China).

    Seriously! It took him and his “researcher” 11 days to compile this story, with all of its amazing statistics and secret documents!

  11. SilentChinese
    May 16th, 2011 at 07:19 | #11

    Looks like he choose to pontificating and level personal attacks to a social media blog,
    almost solely based on his paid position at a newspaper, rather than debate with facts and logic.

    I can not believe people in the journalism in this day and age still do this.
    Or I guess he is just a bad loser who doesn’t like his bubbles popped. (it is bit funny that Allen and yinyang tries to debate with him)
    Not too professionalk and bit behind the times if you ask me.

  12. SilentChinese
    May 16th, 2011 at 07:21 | #12

    raventhorn2000 :Simple logic would defeat Mr. Jacobs’ ridiculous “investigative reporting”.
    If there is a symbolic ban of a “flower”, ridiculous as it premised, a government would do so publicly, as a symbolic gesture, not secretively.
    But hey, don’t believe Mr. Jacobs or myself, just look at NYT’s own article, where there was a video of a “Discount 10 Yuan” sign in Chinese propped up on some Jasmine flowers.
    Sure look like a major ban, eh?
    *But seriously, Mr. Jacobs is, if nothing else, unoriginal. Epoch Times had already circulated similar stories back in March. Mr. Jacobs is about 2 months late.
    http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/china/chinese-regime-nipping-third-jasmine-protest-in-the-bud-52644.html
    “Even real jasmine flowers are banned in flower shops”
    *What was that then? Mr. Jacobs just had a deadline due, and had to whip out some half-copied report, to expand and sensationalize a small 1 line from Epoch Times into a major ban? Probably.
    In this economy, an Expat Journalist has to pay the lifestyle somehow. His previous article for NYT was posted more than 11 days before. (No doubt a very slow period for him in China, when his editors in US are breathing down his neck, asking where is his next story, while he goes desperately visiting dozens of flower shops in China).
    Seriously! It took him and his “researcher” 11 days to compile this story, with all of its amazing statistics and secret documents!

    LOL.
    NYT reporter copied off from a 3rd rate political tabloid.

  13. Mitch
    May 16th, 2011 at 13:16 | #13

    there’s no ban but the ban is ineffective??? No one needs to twist his logic, he does it himself

  14. raventhorn2000
    May 16th, 2011 at 14:08 | #14

    No. If there is a ban such as this, it would be pointless and contrary to the supposedly “Evil Chinese Government”‘s style.

    If there is a ban of a flower in China, you will see cops in flower shops writing down names.

    I mean, seriously, give an “authoritarian government” some credit! At least try to make them sound like their usual portrayal of ruthless efficiency! LOL!

    Hence, I call Mr. Jacobs full of SH*T! His portrayal of the Chinese government make them sound like they are tip-toeing through tulips (or Jasmine), when himself admitted that hardly anyone cares in China.

  15. colin
    May 16th, 2011 at 14:09 | #15

    Wow, I didn’t expect Andrew Jacobs to so blatantly believe in the crap he writes and so adamant in protecting his flawed stance.How someone so ignorant, arrogant and blind works at a supposed top media outlet speaks to a few things: 1) the narcissism of journalists 2) their messianic character that they are supposedly the white knights revealing evil around the world 3) the damning exposure that most of western media are filled with these flaw characters, when journalists should find truth regardless of what the end conclusion is.

    I’m not surprised by his articles so much as his letter revealing that his pen persona and the writer are one in the same. It’s one thing to spew flawed content and outright lie because you’re paid to follow agenda, it’s another when the person is so ignorant and biased he actually believes the things he writes.

    As a native new yorker, one is conditioned to read and respect the NYT. I actively avoid that crap now. This alone speaks volumes about their reporting.

  16. colin
    May 16th, 2011 at 14:26 | #16

    And as typical of something without a leg to stand on, he resorts to straw man arguments like criticizing yinyang. Typical stupid macho mano a mano type idiocy like “I’m not afraid to reveal my name, why do you hide your name”. I hate crap like that. First, what does the identity of the person have to do with the argument itself? Either the argument is valid or is not. Jacobs did not rebut anything. Second, Jacobs profession requires him to reveal his identity. Quiet convenient and easy making this criticism when your info is already out there, isn’t it. Third, there are plenty of reasons why people choose to remain anonymous. With hackers, Google, CIA, NSA, etc all monitoring online traffic, many people choose to remain anonymous for very valid reasons. This is what happens when you don’t: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2011/02/anonymous-speaks-the-inside-story-of-the-hbgary-hack.ars .

  17. May 17th, 2011 at 01:32 | #17

    @jxie

    The primary goal is increasing circulation, page views, etc., and ultimately profit. Now ask yourself, should NYT not “make China look bad”, and report the ground realities that have made only 9% of the Chinese dissatisfied with their country’s direction, according to the latest Pew Global Research data? Would the folks back home who are suffering high unemployment and largely (62%) dissatisfied with the country’s direction like it?

    I concur with this view of the business reality at the NYT, but it’s painful to accept. Americans are generally oblivious. We need to spill stink on these papers from time to time and wake up the handful of people who happens to be paying attention.

    @All

    Him telling me he believes the stuff he writes is seriously mind boggling.

    Btw, in case some of you missed my earlier post on Wangfujing – bunch of pictures I took while there last month:

    Beijing Wangfujing under blue skies

    I was looking for ‘tense police crackdowns’ there over a ‘jasmine revolution’ some of these nut-jobs been telling the Western world.

  18. jxie
    May 17th, 2011 at 02:53 | #18

    R v’s logic is very sound. If there was a ban, it shouldn’t be ineffective, at the very least it shouldn’t be ineffective in Beijing.

    While the Epoch Times’ fiction report was likely the origin of the “news”, the 3 NYT reporters employees might have actually done their “rigorous” reporting in talking to some people, instead of just ripping from the Epoch Times. However, NYT’s sources might have got it directly or indirectly from the Epoch Times’ initial reporting.

    For the real rigorous reporting, without which the news shouldn’t be printed to begin with, at a minimum a couple more steps are needed:

    * Talk to the Beijing Police Department to confirm or disapprove the ban. If they refuse to talk, state so in the news piece.
    * Reveal their sources. If the sources need to be protected, try to qualify them, e.g. “according to several floral store owners we spoke to.” (But somehow I highly doubt they actually spoke to any floral store owners)

  19. Charles Liu
    May 18th, 2011 at 12:15 | #19

    @raventhorn2000

    What seems most plausable to me is, few neighborhood gongan in BJ with troublemakers on their radar went around and asked questions, then few flower shop owners simply said “better not invite trouble”.

  20. May 18th, 2011 at 12:49 | #20

    Yes,

    A real “ban” would not be relied upon the flower shop owners.

    I mean seriously, even an official ban for “indoor smoking” in China is hardly enforceable, does it even make logical sense that the Chinese government would rely on a bunch of flower shop owners to enforce an “official ban”??

    It seems that on 1 hand, the Chinese government doesn’t trust anyone for their purchase of Jasmine flowers (that they might use the flowers for the remote purpose of symbolic protest, which most Chinese didn’t even know about the association of Jasmine to the “revolution),

    but on the other hand, the Chinese government 100% trusts all the flower shop owners NOT to sell the Jasmine flowers (for profit), and enforce the ban effectively, (and trust them enough to get accurate descriptions of all would be troublemakers)

    because Flower shop owners apparently have photographic memory and can sense troublemakers coming a mile away. (far more efficient than cops).

    🙂

  21. Charles Liu
    May 18th, 2011 at 15:00 | #21

    Not to mention the repercussion of banning a commodity like jasmine. According to trade report 600,000 metric tons of jasmine were used for tea in 2010:

    http://ccn.mofcom.gov.cn/spbg/show.php?id=11079

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