Young Chinese Journalists Travel Regionally to Research and Report on Industrial Pollution

Part of InternewsNext, a series highlighting 30 youth-led media initiatives.

Journalists asking questions
Journalists tour and ask questins at Bowin landfill in Thailand. 

Tough questions and stone-faced rebuttals from authorities don’t deter Wang Jing, a young journalist at China’s New Century magazine. "I feel I am a representative of the public,” said Jing, explaining her recent persistent enquiries of Thai officials. “If I must, I can apologize in private for aggressive questioning."

Jing was one of six Chinese journalists who took part in an October reporting trip through Thailand and Vietnam, where the journalists had opportunities to meet with and question government, industry, and NGO leaders involved in industrial pollution, essentially tracing the life cycle of products like plastics and liquefied natural gas and learning about the impacts of industrial production on health and the environment. The Chinese journalists clearly enjoyed the rare opportunity to ask questions freely and aggressively. Watch a video about the journalists' field trip.

The trip was part of a year-long mentorship project by Internews’ Earth Journalism Network, focused on covering environmental health and pollution issues, funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. The journalists will also receive intensive mentoring sessions from experienced journalists and environmental health experts within China, as well.

In Thailand, the journalists had the opportunity to see both proactive steps taken by the Thai government, in partnership with business and environmental groups, to address health and environmental concerns, and also the devastating impacts that pollution has already had on communities, including a village in Thailand near a petrochemical complex that has been ravaged by cancer. At another site visit next to a landfill slated for expansion, villagers have worked to document discharged wastewater originating from the nearby industrial estate with GPS devices and photo evidence, and are now working with the company to minimize further health and environmental impacts.

The visit to to the Mab Ta Phut petrochemical complex in Thailand presented an opportunity for the journalists to find story angles that link the industrial process to the everyday lives of theiraudiences, as they learned how the arcane petrochemicals produced are used in everyday consumer products.

In Vietnam, the group visited an industrial zone’s wastewater treatment facility that recently had an environmental accident. The Chinese journalists were accompanied by local Vietnamese journalists who filmed the event and plan to use the press briefing as material for articles – a major boon for the local press, which rarely if ever gets such access to company information or personnel.

Several of the journalists reflected afterwards that the case is a useful illustration of globalization's effect on environmental regulations, where governments loosen standards to attract investment, and discussed using it as an example for future stories.

Related Stories

  • New Guide Helps Journalists Report on Oceans and Fisheries

    Cover: Covering the Seas
    Thursday, April 17, 2014

    The ocean is one of the most dynamic and yet most under-reported food systems on the planet. Close to one billion people rely on fish as their primary source of protein and, collectively, the nations of the world catch around 90 million metric tons of wild fish and shellfish from the oceans annually. But for journalists working on stories about often distant oceans and fisheries, engaging the general readership can be difficult.

  • Profile: Liu Lican

    Liu Lican
    Tuesday, April 15, 2014

    Liu Lican is the Co-founder and Programs Director in the Greenovation Hub, a Chinese grassroots NGO focusing on environmental protection and innovation. He also serves as project coordinator of Internews’ Earth Journalism Network and helped develop two reporting toolkits, “Environmental Health and Climate Change” and “Global Trade Reporting: New Trends in Africa-China-Western Countries Economic Integration – Fair Timber Trade as an Example.” His most recent book, “The Sick Villages in a Strong State,” is the first book in Chinese that reveals the so-called “cancer village” problem in China.