24 February 2009

Accidental candour

'The proofreader and typesetter at the outspoken Southern Metropolis Daily have been fined for an article that went a step too far – even for one of the few newspapers in China willing on occasion to challenge the censors.

The proofreader was outraged when he was presented with a story from a junior reporter that fell into line with the mainstream newspapers that lavish praise on the activities of Communist Party officials.

He described in flattering terms how a local party leader in southern Shenzhen had celebrated the Chinese New Year making dumplings with a group of migrant labourers. In his final paragraph, he wrote: “Since they have never dined with such a senior-level leader before, all the migrant workers were all very excited to see such a great leader.”

But this was not the line that ended up in print the next day. Once typeset, the proofreader was so disgusted by the phrase that he circled it and made the annotation: “Such arse-kissing!” He felt that the traditional propaganda tone was not in keeping with the policy of one of China’s most hard-hitting newspapers.

However, the typesetter did not realise what the phrase meant and simply added it into the reporter’s copy and sent the newspaper off to be printed. Thus the January 22 edition of the newspaper carried the line reading: “Such arse-kissing really makes me excited.”

About 420,000 copies were sold although editors were swift to delete the phrase from the online edition'

- The Times, 24 February 2009

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