Dichotomy Between Safety and Credit?

No. 14

Every journalist knows anonymity should be used sparingly — mostly to protect vulnerable sources. But what if the journalists themselves are afraid to put their names out there? 

It’s one of those things we don’t talk much about as Chinese Storytellers working in international media. Some have normalized the struggle. Others avoid thinking much about it, as it carries a heavy emotional toll. Many Chinese reporters have done work in and about China — work that we are uniquely positioned to do — without getting the proper due credit. The Chinese government bans its citizens from working as full-fledged staff journalists for international media organizations in China. But even for those who work abroad, fear of a worsening political climate in China has prevented many from receiving bylines for reporting on some of the biggest China stories of our time.  

No matter where we are based, we fear disinformation campaigns on Chinese social media singling out individual journalists; invitations to tea; harassment of our families; but the most important of them all: the fear of the unknown. 

Each time we publish a story that the Chinese government could deem politically sensitive, we go through the exhausting mental exercise of deciding whether we want to put our names on it. We fear that doing so may cause professional or personal retribution, because we don’t know where the line is drawn. We don’t know if keeping bylines now will jeopardize our careers and safety later. We don’t know whether leaving our names off means we are admitting defeat or preserves our ability to report without self-censorship. We don’t know how or if staying anonymous hurts our careers in the long run. These are the struggles we face. But at the end of the day, we will continue to do the work in which we believe. 

We want to hear from those with similar experiences. We’d also like to reach out to our readers for advice and ideas on how to deal with this pressing issue. Feel free to drop us a line. Thank you. 

All the best,
Isabelle Niu and Shen Lu 


The best work from our members.

🧑‍🎓 Asian American Students Finding Their Place
The high-profile affirmative action lawsuit against Harvard has forced students and their families to choose sides. Chen Ronghui photographs Asian-American students thrust into the spotlight for The New York Times Magazine.

(Photograph by Chen Ronghui for The New York Times)

🇲🇬 A Fishing Deal That Never Was
In 2018, a $2.7 billion fishing deal with China came out of nowhere, surprising Madagascar’s civil society and even some parts of its government. And it turned out to be just a mirage. Lulu Ning Hui reports for China Dialogue and Initium Media.

🔒 Last Digital Refuge for China’s Liberals
Douban, an online sanctuary for China’s liberals and alternative thinkers, recently disabled a key function. Quartz journalist Jane Li writes about why many of its users feel like “digital refugees.” 

📚💬 A Chat with Viet Thanh Nguyen
Writer Qian Jianan interviews Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen for The Millions about his novel The Sympathizer, his literary education, and how to approach the representation of minority groups in his own work.

💉🏥 Side Effect of the Opioid Crisis
Illinois is seeing an uptick in infective endocarditis, a potentially fatal disease that often afflicts people who inject intravenous drugs. Lu Zhao investigates this side effect of the opioid crisis for the Chicago Reporter

📉💰 Data Labeling for Poverty Alleviation 
Underdeveloped provinces want to tap into the growth of China’s AI industry by developing a data labeling industry. But is it sustainable? Luna Lin reports for KrASIA.

🌆🏙️ Escaping in Shanghai
For a California Sunday Magazine photo essay, Beimeng Fu interviews people of different ages from all walks of life in Shanghai, who share their stories of escaping from boredom, stress, and life’s misery.

🧙‍♀️🔮 Witches Are Having A Moment 
Mengwen Cao
photographs Pam Grossman, host of the popular “The Witch Wave” podcast, aka the “Terry Gross of witches” for the New York Times.

(Photograph by Mengwen Cao for The New York Times

Submit your published work in three ways: 1. DM us on Twitter; 2. Post it on the Slack channel #shamelessplugs; 3. Email hello@chinesestorytellers.com


We recognize our members’ professional achievements (and flatter them).

🇭🇰 Wilfred Chan appears on Intercepted, a podcast of The Intercept, to discuss the Hong Kong protests and the city’s history of dissent.

👩🏻‍🔬 Yangyang Cheng talks about writing for a general audience as a scientist on the Oolong podcast by the China Channel of the LA Review of Books. She sheds light on the challenges Chinese scientists face in today’s political climate.

🗒️ Lu Zhao shares her experience of social justice reporting on a panel at the Between Coasts Forum, which gathered journalists from throughout the United States to discuss how to cover underreported stories in America’s heartland.

🥂 Tell us what makes you proud via email, Slack or Twitter.


Jobs, gigs, grants, fellowships, etc.

NPR China Affairs Correspondent - [Washington D.C.]
NPR is hiring a correspondent focusing on China's interests, influence and activities in the U.S. and around the globe. APPLY

Reporting Fellowship in Latin America - [Global]
The International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) is accepting applications for the Adelante Latin America Reporting Initiative. The deadline is Nov. 12, 2019. (Ping Jin Ding on Slack for more information.) APPLY

Bloomberg Internship - [New York]
Bloomberg Graphics is looking for a paid winter intern to join its team in January 2020.  The deadline is Nov. 15, 2019. (Talk to Yue Qiu on Slack for more information.) APPLY

Business Insider Fellowship - [New York/San Francisco/Los Angeles]
Insider Inc. is now looking for fellows to join its newsrooms in January 2020. Fellowships run for six months. The pay is $18 an hour. Applications will close on Nov. 15, 2019. APPLY

👀 Find more on the #opportunities channel on Slack.

Writers and Editors: Isabelle Niu, Shen Lu; Copy Editor: Robert Qian

Chinese Storytellers is a community that empowers Chinese non-fiction content creators. Follow us @CNStorytellers. Questions? Suggestions? Comments? Tell us.