Thursday, May 13, 2010

One night, three conversations

I recently had the great opportunity to spend an evening with a number of international journalists. I had the particular pleasure of talking at some length to three who couldn’t have been more different.

Wen Xian is the Washington D.C. bureau chief of the People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China. Having spent two years as a Mormon missionary in Hong Kong and few days in Guangzhou in 1979, I latched onto Wen early during the reception at the Sun Valley Inn and threw out a little of my poor Mandarin.

There is no arguing that the People’s Daily is a propaganda tool and that Wen is not a journalist in the traditional American notion of the word. Still, we developed an immediate rapport and launched into a discussion of China’s remarkable turnaround over the past three decades.

Perhaps reciting the party line, Wen was quick to name what he considered to be China’s No. 1 issue: Population growth. At any rate, I hope to correspond with Wen in the future. I admire the Chinese people and their government holds a lot of America’s growing debt, so we best learn to get along with them.

Next was Max Akerman, U.S. correspondent for Swiss National Public Radio. Akerman was so taken with my views on Idaho politics that we stepped outside the reception room for a quick interview (Kathleen shot the attached photo with her BlackBerry). We later shared a table at dinner and talked some more.

Akerman’s main interest was the emergence of the Tea Party movement and the libertarian-style conservatism growing among Idahoans. Based in San Francisco, Akerman is accustomed to a more, um, progressive environment. He was looking forward to attending a campaign rally for Rex Rammell in Boise.

Perhaps the most interesting conversation of the evening, however, was with Makoto Kajiwara, senior staff writer for Nikkei newspaper, the Wall Street Journal of Japan (the equivalent of the “Dow Jones Industrial Average” in Japan is the “Nikkei”). We began chatting over drinks and continued over dinner.

Kajiwara was in Idaho pursuing a very specific story based on his theory that the residents of three U.S. states -- North and South Dakota and Idaho -- have the best outlook on life when compared to their expectations of economic improvement. In other words, people in these three states are happy despite having low expectations for making more money.

I haven’t investigated the data behind Kajiwara’s hypothesis, but I intend to. I’ll also be looking for his report in the next few weeks on Nikkei’s English-language web site and we’ll ask Nikkei for permission to reprint it.

Kajiwara lives in Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan, which he prefers to living in Tokyo. He says next year he’ll have to decide whether to continue his reporting career or making a little more money in Tokyo as an editor. We agreed that there’s nothing more satisfying for a journalist than being a reporter.

No comments:

Post a Comment