South Africa

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

In response to Richard Pithouse, who distorted my role at New Frame when it comes to coverage (or lack of coverage) of China

In response to Richard Pithouse, who distorted my role at New Frame when it comes to coverage (or lack of coverage) of China

Journalists know that what is not published is at least as significant as what is. This does not mean the editor is a blue-pencil wielding ‘censor’. But it does mean that avoidance of certain topics or passivity about them are telling.

It is saddening that a person of Richard Pithouse’s intelligence should so easily play the race card against some of his white former colleagues at New Frame. They do not include me, as I am Chinese, and it is as such that I respond to Pithouse’s assertions and speculations about New Frame’s coverage of China (“New Frame achieved much, but was also an unworkable proposition given its very high costs”, Daily Maverick, 21 July, 2022).

Also read: “Inside the messy demise of New Frame”, Daily Maverick, 15 July 2022.

Pithouse conflates my “Text Messages” column with “a number of articles critical of China”. The column tied current events to passages of text from novels, histories, philosophy, drama, poetry, etc – it did not and could not reflect New Frame’s editorial position on any given subject. What publication anywhere in the world has its editorial line determined by a twice-monthly column? Pithouse conveniently elides this editorial silence. 

Here, hush is the key. Journalists know that what is not published is at least as significant as what is. This does not mean the editor is a blue-pencil wielding “censor”. But it does mean that avoidance of certain topics or passivity about them are telling. Pithouse writes that had New Frame received a good pitch or article on Xinjiang, “we would certainly proceed with it”.

This is a somewhat novel approach to news not only of pressing global interest but also of intense social justice interest (New Frame’s declared mandate). In my four decades at newspapers and other media, editors have never waited for benign providence to drop stories in their inboxes. Rather, they have exerted some effort and commissioned them.

Pithouse attempts to attribute my “anxieties” about New Frame’s lack of coverage of China to an article by Alexander Reid Ross in New Lines magazine. (Coyly, he mentions neither author nor article by name.) While I am aware of the article, I have never read it. It is pop psychology and base rhetoric to indulge in games of “my best guess” as Pithouse does. It also tries to deprive me of political agency and ignores the 20-plus years in which I have been part of various China research groups – the real cause of any worries I might have.

As to “recommending articles”, the news editor would ask my opinion of articles on China sent to New Frame by Globetrotter, an international syndication service begun in 2018 and headed by Vijay Prashad, who also runs the Tricontinental Research Institute, among whose funders is Roy Singham. The Globetrotter pieces could be run free of charge. I did not “recommend”; I gave my view.  

As a postscript: Myanmar. Pithouse writes, “We have published a large number of articles that mention Myanmar, a good number of which are substantial pieces, and there is a consistent and vigorous critique of repression in that body of work.”

True – but almost all about the Rohingya genocide and not of the murder of Burmese by the Myanmar military junta.

New Frame did run an article about the coup, headlined “The politics and geopolitics of the coup in Myanmar” (12 February 2021). 

It came from Globetrotter and was written by Vijay Prashad. DM

Darryl Accone was Revise Editor at New Frame.

Note from Daily Maverick Editor: Correspondence on this matter is now closed.

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