• Tue
  • Jul 29, 2014
  • Updated: 9:17am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 July, 2014, 4:33am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 July, 2014, 6:50pm

Ming Pao editorial director had to make tough call on July 1 protest

It's not every day that a journalist gets to shout "stop the presses". I have fantasised about it often. Ming Pao's editorial director, Lui Ka-ming, did just that over the Chinese-language paper's front page coverage of the massive July 1 rally. Poor guy, the decision drew flak from many directions, not least from the paper's own staff association; and he stayed past 5am for that! I don't envy him.

If nothing else, the guy is hard-working. Where else would you find in this business an editorial director who stayed so late? Many senior people I know would have left by early dinner. Still, did Lui make the right call, which has led to accusations of editorial interference?

The original headline was pretty much like everyone's: "Rally for universal suffrage reached a 10-year high", with the sub-headline "Several hundred launched Occupy Central trial run; police ready to clear area".

The presses started running. But after 3.20am, Lui received reports that police had moved in and started removing protesters. With almost 40 years in the business, he believes the latest news is always the hottest, or so he wrote in Ming Pao yesterday to explain his action. The presses were stopped at 3.45am. The new headline became: "Hundreds in Occupy Central trial run; police started operation to clear area". The new sub-headline was: "July 1 rally - number [of participants] reached a 10-year high". The main report also incorporated some new material on the latest police operation. It must be added that a few Chinese papers with late printing deadlines also got that into their reports.

The new headline made no reference to suffrage, because Lui said many people took part in the rally for different reasons. Occupy Central protesters and police took centre stage instead of the rally's massive turnout. Lui went home and only told chief editor Cheung Kin-bor about it after 7.30am. Cheung agreed with him.

The staff association was furious, though, and issued a reprimand. It said editorial staff worried it could set a bad precedent and that "an invisible hand" may be interfering. I am inclined to side with Lui. After all, everyone had left the office. But it's a perfect case study for journalism schools and those worried about press freedom.

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This article is now closed to comments

nmp_inc
Wrong headline. Should have been: Hong Kong Police Violently Remove Peaceful Protesters.
321manu
The guy just changed the headline. He added some content too, but I wouldn't say he diminished or downplayed the existing content about the march itself.
On the other hand, these are 2 somewhat different events that each deserved their own story. If he's going to modify the headline and add content, he could've left the initial story untouched, and added a second one. He'd still be stopping the presses. He'd still be reporting the latest news. But the optics wouldn't be nearly as bad.
That said, this is not the type of thing that I would deem a significant threat to press freedom in HK. Those forces are coming in the form of the CCP, and that threat would be very real, and far more substantial. This sort of thing is molehill stuff.
dyeung
Wow! A guy sneaked in in the middle of the night to override an editorial decision in order to make the headline less politically sensitive and you want to side with him?
johnyuan
To dyeung,
.
I reread AL’s story and found no evidence that AL mentioned about the editorial director made changes by sneaking up on others. On the contrary he was updated of the protest by his colleague of which led up to make a tough call. All in a day’s (early morning) work.
.
You have colored your vision to suit your political conclusion. Honesty is the best policy though. And I hope you didn't force the rest of your family into your conclusion.
dyeung
1) Why drag my family into your criticisms?
2) AL said it himself that normally no one in this guy's position would be at work at that time of the hour
3) Please read the statement by the Employee's Union at Mingpao. There is a procedure to determine what headlines to use: ****www.inmediahk.net/node/1024078
4) When was the last time this guy made a "tough call" to change another headline? Why change it this time?
johnyuan
To dye....
.
To
.
Allow me to expand on your response which I feel without doing so is a disservice to you for having responded to your first posting.
.
If you stop using a family-like portrait in your posting my comment wouldn’t have been necessary. Still, I apologize to your family even if I was misled.
.
It is duty bind when informed of the latest news development to response for a newspaper operation. How it is done differentiate leader from rule followers.
.
I advise you to know these basics to be disagreeing with my response. I shall not say more.
whymak
Mr. Lo,
The protest by Ming Pao staff association reminds me of the attempted palace coup at SCMP by a junior writer named Price. Wonder if he's still around.
Someone named Li Wangyang hanged himself in a Chinese hospital. As usual, hate-China HKers and expats, like roaches coming out of woodwork, tried to push the story of Chinese torture and alleged homicide. Family of the diseased, eyewitnesses, who were either health care workers or patients 24 hours of the day saw nothing suspicious of foul play. Independent coroners' reports found suicide as cause of death with nary a trace of physical harm.
Because he was a dissident, a team of HK troublemakers went to the hospital and interviewed -- forceful interrogation with loaded questions was more like it -- Mr. Li. Family members voiced objection to HK visitors' line of questions with no interest in his well being. Mr. Li was already in an unstable state of mind. Even with their contrived interview, except by innuendos, HK "human rights" scumbags failed to implicate local authorities with evidence of torture and foul play.
Mr. Price at SCMP wanted badly to publish a dubious story. Failing to obtain permission from Mr. Wang to show his baby with no documentation, he threatened to bring down the editor-in-chief by taking his case to the public.
Tell me why your profession is replete with so many self-righteous, delusional, China bashing do-gooders just like some readers of your column?
hm03
What's the bigger number? hundreds of thousands or hundreds? The bigger number is the hotter story.
Dai Muff
"The new headline made no reference to suffrage, because Lui said many people took part in the rally for different reasons. " The excuses and dissembling were working so well until this sentence. Time-sensitivity is one thing (also - as other papers have done in the past - fixable with a late supplement.) But once he pretends he does not know the main reason people were on the street this year - that White Paper, as the first headline comes closer to suggesting - he loses it. Every single other issue is underpinned by this. It is the lack of a people's mandate that is making Hong Kong harder to govern.
53ae0c69-5e94-4706-924a-743c0a320969
Personally, I think it is the forever obstructing radical pan-dems and the lopsided reporting by the fruit paper which is making HK harder to govern.

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