Money talks, so paying up is reasonable
Li Yinhe is a person of controversy. The strange thing is that her proposal to legalize homosexual marriage has been eclipsed by her demand to charge a fee for press interviews.
As a respected sex expert, Li is a media darling. She is constantly quoted, especially when the National Congress was in session and her unconventional proposal was, for the second time, in the limelight.
I read somewhere that Hollywood star John Travolta once demanded US$50,000 for an interview while he was in France. That disgusted me. The guy is so filthy rich. He could have said no if he didn't want to talk.
As a journalist, I have the natural inclination to wish that every expert I want to talk to would be willing and available to answer my questions whenever my assignment calls for it. I also work on the side as a film critic, and as such, I'm occasionally the target of interviews especially during award seasons.
I feel that, as a basic principle, everyone has the right to decide whether or not to talk to the press. And if you're in the news and you prefer to keep silent, there's a strong probability that the press may misinterpret you. So there is the incentive to talk.
Some, like Mark Felt of "Deep Throat" fame, choose to sell their stories. Fortunately, this has not caught on in China. Their rationale is if people are going to profit from their stories, they should get a slice of the rewards.
I once offered 200 yuan to a boy and a girl begging on a street who I suspected were victims of a crime ring. They might not be making that much in a week and I just needed them for a few hours to tell me the inner workings of the group. I wondered whether, ethically, I should see it as an incentive or a form of compensation for their time. Surprisingly, they turned me down.
There is another type of interviewee, who is not a news maker, but an expert in a specific field. The media approaches these types as if they were consultants. In the US, hired consultants are paid handsomely, but in China it's strictly an exchange of knowledge and fame. The underlying consensus is, they answer questions in exchange for exposure, meaning they can make money off lecture tours and book deals.
But what if the source doesn't see the benefits? Is he or she, as a public intellectual, obligated to help out the press?
A couple of times I was interviewed so exhaustively that I almost cried out: "Please, let me write the article for you. That'll be easier for me." Much of the article that came out was transcriptions from my answers even though only a few sentences were credited as direct quotes.
I surmise Li's situation would be 1,000 times worse than mine if she had said yes to every interview request. Think of it, the price tag she has dangled in public is not unreasonable. Any interview shorter than 15 minutes, which would cover most cases, is free; anything over one hour is priced at 500 yuan, by no means exorbitant as a consulting fee.
That will certainly prevent reporters who skip their homework and treat expert interviewees as free teachers from being on the receiving end.
(China Daily 03/18/2006 page4)
|| About Us | Contact Us | Site Map | Jobs | About China Daily ||
|Copyright 2005 Chinadaily.com.cn All rights reserved. Registered Number: 20100000002731|