Thursday, September 25, 2008

Quotes before launch

Students in China are excited about the launch of China's Shenzhou 7 mission tonight. Just as we got back home after doing our "Meet the Foreigners" culture lecture, a student sent Christina a message saying that the rocket would launch at precisely 9:09.

"What time is it?" she asked.


So we hurried to the TV and turned it on. Unfortunately, our cable, which worked when we moved in, seems to have gone out, so we don't get any TV stations. Otherwise, we may have been able to just barely catch the rocket just after takeoff. Oh well. Another historic moment missed. That's what the Internet's for, nowadays.

Anyway, people are excited and proud that China's first spacewalk is about to happen. It's a pretty big accomplishment. Very cool.

But it seems that the journalism here is a little shaky. I also read that news of the launch, including detailed quotes about things that had yet to happen, also got posted to the Xinhua website. Here's an AP article about it:
BEIJING – A news story describing a successful launch of China's long-awaited space mission and including detailed dialogue between astronauts launched on the Internet Thursday, hours before the rocket had even left the ground.

The country's official news agency Xinhua posted the article on its Web site Thursday, and remained there for much of the day before it was taken down.

A staffer from the Web site who answered the phone Thursday said the posting of the article was a "technical error" by a technician. The staffer refused to give his name as is common among Chinese officials. Read on...

Leaking a pre-written obit is one thing, but making up quotes about things that haven't yet happened? Big no-no. Newspapers in America often create files of obits on celebrities they think may die , so they can just add a few details about the cause of death, get a couple quotes and file it right away, which leads to big embarassment if someone accidentally runs it before the person dies (here's one example, and another). But it's gotta be even worse for the guy who runs the made-up story.

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