I’m still getting comments on my posts from China from time to time. A recent one from Tony piqued my interest. One of the great things about a blog is that it promotes dialogue and it promotes transparency. I’ve never edited or deleted a critical comment (comments do have to be approved to ward off spammers).

Here’s what Tony had to say about my role as a reporter and the reluctance and reticence of many Chinese whom I wanted to interview.

“You could see the fear in their eyes — a look I’d never seen before — over talking to reporters. They would usually give us one last dirty look before hurriedly walking away.”

I’ll tell you what, the reason why these people don’t want to speak to foreign reporters is because western press will take every effort to negatively criticize every little aspect of China and demoralize their motherland. They aren’t “afraid” of talking to you reporters, they are disgusted.

Honestly, if I were that guy at the park I would have done the loudest spit and turn my back.

Well, that’s a comment that deserves a response. I understand why many Chinese are edgy and sensitive about media coverage, certainly after the unrest in Tibet and the critical coverage before and throughout the Olympics. It’s hard to be under that kind of microscope and scrutiny. And it’s easy to blame the media, it’s an easy target. But as a member of the media that Tony so despises, I feel compelled to defend it. Here’s what I e-mailed Tony the other day:

Hi Tony,

Thanks for taking the time to read my blog and leave a comment. I think you’re wrong to criticize my reporting. If you knew me and my track record, I have always been the first to call out unbalanced and unfair coverage of China. I went out of the way to get the point of view of Chinese locals. I made it a point to interview as many regular folks as I possibly could. That they shunned me without even hearing what my questions were was disappointing.

Sure, some in the media have relied on shoddy or biased reporting when covering China and Asia in general. But to group everyone in one big “Western media conspiracy” is shortsighted and counterproductive. There are good journalists and journalism out there (I recommend you read anything by Peter Hessler). But their jobs are made difficult by a government that frowns upon free speech and the free dissemination of ideas. That is a fact you cannot dispute. What is sad and disheartening is the fear and disillusionment that many Chinese have about the so-called West and the press. What is worse: a free press with all its virtues and blemishes or a society that breeds (and at times has openly encouraged) antipathy and suspicion.

As a journalist I have to side with the right to free press. As a human being, I believe in basic human rights. I believe a free press is a basic human right. And I’m thankful we can have this discussion. Because if we were in China, we couldn’t have this discussion — WordPress has been banned there.

Again, thanks for commenting.