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Every day HK will be wrapping up and there will be no future postings. I have moved to London and will be starting a new blog related to my new location shortly.

I’d like to wish much success to the athletes from Hong Kong who will be competing in the Beijing Olympics this summer. My research in amateur sports has left me very impressed with the dedication of our local athletes who have to overcome many obstacles (many of them bureaucratic) to make it to the world stage. Good luck to all of you.

Thanks to those of you who have read and commented on this blog. I hope to meet both of you one day 😉

Susan

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I was watching an old Seinfeld episode last week and it made me think of what is wrong with the new economy. It was the famous ‘airport episode’ which revolves around Jerry and Elaine trying to get on a flight but the only seats available are one in first class and the other in economy. While Elaine gets shoe-horned into her middle seat hell, is harassed by the trolley-pushiing battle axe, and is forced  to climb over a big obnoxious guy to get to the toilet, Jerry is drinking champagne, enjoying his extra leg-room, and putting on his courtesy slippers.

While watching it, my daughter, (a seasoned economy class traveler who dreams of flying first class), looked at me and said “is that what first class looks like?” And I thought: well, no actually it doesn’t look like that. First class these days is much, much better. You not only get champange, you have a chef. You don’t just have a bigger seat, you have a fully, turned-down bed. And skip the slippers, in first class you have full pyjamas. And of course that’s just the beginning. Many other nice touches — too many to mention here.

But the interesting thing here, is that while first class has improved by elegant leaps and bounds, economy class looks pretty much the same as it did in the episode, filmed over ten years ago. Except of course, for the 5×7 TV screens jammed in the seat backs, which, in my case, are either busted, or impossible to view because the guy in front of me is reclined so far into my lap I could give him a facial.

This small realisation brings me to a recent report in The South China Morning Post that the Employers’ Federation of Hong Kong has recommended that pay rises should generally be capped at 2.5 per cent next year in view of dimmer economic prospects. Well once I got over the fact there even is an “Employers’ Federation”, I began thinking about the fact that, when the economy went south, employees all took their salary cuts. And now when the economy has been rebounding with vigour, employees are still being asked to tighten their belts.

Well, for those of us in the back of the plane, that means that someone is profiting from the economic recovery but it is not those of us who get paid salaries. And while the Employers get together and decide to keep salaries low so that profits can remain high, expenses like rent are increasing at a rate of 20%, 30% or even 50% over the last two years. And while, yes, a bonus can help offset the rising cost of living, it does little for a person’s confidence in his or her ability to maintain their way of life in the coming year. And it doesn’t help that salaries for those in the top executive levels are reaching new heights.

I’m no economist but the math on this is not working for me. Who do I need to talk to around here to get an upgrade?

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How much did HKTB pay Karen Mok anyway!!The Hong Kong Tourism Board has sent out an exciting press release recently entitled “Cross-Sector Support for 2007 HK Shopping Festival on 10th Anniversary of HKSAR“. I mean, wow! they sure know how to sell themselves, don’t they?

Well believe it or not… I managed to read through the many paragraphs describing exciting offers with the MTR, special dining offers …. themed activites… Karen Mok.. blah blah blah…. a special shopping guide…. more shopping… until I hit upon this curious little piece of information:

Joining the HKTB to conjure up a citywide festive ambience will be Ocean Park Hong Kong, which will arrange its two panda mascots – Le Le and Ying Ying – to perform at shopping centres in major tourism districts on specific dates.

Sorry, What? Are they seriously suggesting that they will be bringing the pandas to the mall? to perform? I’ve been to Ocean Park several times and I’ve only seen them sit and sleep and, if i’m lucky: chew.how's this for performing?

So I can only think that the press release is misleading and what they mean is, a couple of guys in panda suits will be dancing around. I mean, what else can it mean? They will put the pandas in little cages in the middle of the mall?

Anyway you look at it, it’s pretty sad. Sorry James Tien, you’ll have to do better than that.

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I was really not intending to write so much on the SCMP, but lately it’s hard to avoid. On Friday there was a story on the Doha round restarting. At the bottom of the article, there was an explanation of the Doha round contained in a sidebar. What I found interesting was that the source of the information was cited as Wikipedia, not the WTO official website.

While I frequently link to Wikipedia from the blog to give readers some additional background, should they want it, I do it informally and with confidence that readers understand that it is for reference only and cannot be relied on to be air-tight. As a journalist, I would never use Wikipedia as an official source. I might use it to get some leads for research purposes, but I would never trust it exclusively. The risk of error, although tenuous, is the trade-off for the collaborative aspect of open content sources.

Even my former new media journalism professor, Andrew Lih, who is a well-known expert on Wikipedia and is currently writing a book on the project (and a Wikipedian himself, of course) does not believe journalists should refer to Wikipedia as a source. He encouraged using it as a starting point and a means of getting an overview of a topic, but not reliable enough to cite as a source for a published article.

Just for fun, let’s see what Wikipedia says about Wikipedia: “There has been controversy over Wikipedia’s reliability and accuracy, with the site receiving criticism for its susceptibility to vandalism, uneven quality and inconsistency, systemic bias, and preference for consensus or popularity over credentials. Information is sometimes unconfirmed and questionable, lacking proper sources that, in the eyes of most Wikipedians, is necessary for an article to be considered “high quality“. Hmmm….

The information on the Doha round was, I’m sure, perfectly accurate. The beauty of Wikipedia is that the material is often nicely summarised which makes it so tempting to lift the text rather than piece together a summary from the WTO official website or other source. However, I can’t help but think it lowers the credibility of the paper when sources which are not considered 100% accurate are officially cited, no matter how correct they might be in that one instance. A friend of mine at CNN recently told me that CNN does not use Wikipedia as an official research source. Ever.

To get a barometer on how fair, accurate and professionsl the content on Wikipedia is, editors of the SCMP might test it by checking the South China Morning Post entry. Would they want to see that information published in a quality paper?

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Donald Trump is not the only one gaining notoriety for firing people. Mark Clifford, the editor-in-chief at the SCMP axed two senior editors on Friday, according to the Apple Daily and Ming Pao.

Mark stirred up some controversy in journalism circles and the blogosphere seven months ago when he unceremoniously sacked two of his top editors at The Standard as his last assignment as editor-in-chief there.

Well it appears that he is using the same strategy again, but this time for different reasons. While it was the subject of debate as to why he fired the editors at The Standard before announcing his departure for bigger, greener pastures at the Post, the sacking of two senior Post editors on Friday is being viewed as retribution for insolent behaviour. Apparently, the editors were involved in a satirical prank which was linked to the resignation/firing of Niall Fraser, who was editor of The Sunday Post.

I won’t comment any further as I have no first-hand knowledge as to what actually happened and am simply repeating what I read in eastsouthwestnorth and in a blog discussion on what went down.

If we are to believe the memo published in Mister Bijou’s blog, Clifford felt the prank undermined the credibility and professionalism of the paper. Was he right?

Update (Nov 15) : see the latest news on Asia Sentinel. (they also ran a thumbnail of the actual page).

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Congratulations to the organisers of New Vision Arts Festival. Now in its third year, it has really come into its own by bringing a great range of innovative artists and performances to Hong Kong.

On Saturday night, we saw INSEN, a collaborative performance featuring Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto. This is the calibre of entertainment that the Hong Kong Arts Festival would have brought in, once upon a time. However, in the past few years the HKAF has resorted to following a predictable formula in their programming: an opera, a couple of symphonies, some latin dance act, an American play, some Asian stuff and, of course, some kind of acrobatic act for the kiddies. While they succeed in bringing in high quality talent, they fail at bringing in anything fresh or original.
Gone are the glory years, the years that brought Robert LePage plays and artists like Laurie Anderson. This year I have bought tickets to only one performance: Savage Monsters starring dance legend Sylvie Guillem.

I am thrilled that the New Vision Arts Festival has recognized an opportunity to pick up the ball where the HKAF has dropped it. With an impressive program of innovative talent from around the region, and all reasonably priced, this festival should have it’s best year ever.

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What’s going on at the SCMP? Lately, I have spotted more typos and errors than usual. But while those kind of mistakes are forgivable and usually forgettable, I can’t forgive the editors for the headlines I have been reading lately.

In Friday’s paper (Sept 29) the story on yet another senior official in Shanghai being implicated in the recent corruption scandal, had a headline that read: Shanghai Scandal Claims One More Scalp.

Sorry, what? Scalp? Before I go any further, let me assure you that, as a Canadian, I am well aware of what a scalp or scalping means. Scalping (the act of removing the scalp, usually with the hair, as a portable proof or trophy of prowess in war) is mostly associated with Native Americans and the battles fought between them and white settlers in North America.

Although the practice has been traced back to China, the term is generally one most associated with cowboys and Indians (excuse the use of non-politically correct terminology here).
While I understand the reference, I thought the imagery seemed completely inappropriate when referring to Chinese politics; especially in a headline on the front page. I had to wonder as to whether readers with English as a second language would understand the connotation. In my opinion the term was too informal and of a vernacular too specific to North American culture.

Moving along, in today’s paper, I spotted another beauty that made me pause in wonder, but for different reasons.

On the front page of the Life section, topping a feature on snake charming in Thailand, was a headline that read: Fangs for the Memories.

Sorry, that is just lame.

OK, while I’m complaining, I’ll add another. This isn’t about another headline horror, but a glaring error. In a feature story that made the case for the Hong Kong Arts Festival feeling threatened by a newer, edgier New Vision Arts Festival, the following was written:

“Their (the HKArts Festival staffers) fears seems unwarranted when 90,000 tickets — 80% of seats have already been sold for next year’s event.”

80%? This is quite a claim, and is used as proof of the festival’s success. Yet tickets for next year’s festival have not even gone on sale yet, a fact the HK Arts Festival office verified for me this morning when I called them.

When I asked the Features Editor, how the writer could have made such a big mistake that would, no doubt, flood the HKAF office with panicked phone calls from anxious patrons who were waiting patiently for the box office to open next month, she advised me that the error was the fault of the editor.
OK, maybe I’m being a bit picky, but between the bad headlines and the typos, I have to think that recent cut-backs and staff shuffling have taken its toll.

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