2 November 2010

How Papers Report on Murder in Hong Kong

These past seven days have seen two foreigners in the Hong Kong news but for the wrong reasons. Kelsey Mudd, a student at California State University, was convicted of murder and sentenced to about 4 years in jail. This student possesses citizenship in 3 countries: the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia. 

Perhaps more interesting than his citizenship status was how the student was portrayed by two competing English dailies in Hong Kong. The Standard, which charges no price for their paper and offers free online content, referred to the student as an Australian. But the South China Morning Post, which offers no free paper and no free online content, referred to the student as an American. 

I couldn't help but note this rather obvious difference in reporting. But as papers are fond of feigning neutrality, I began wondering about the meaning behind it. Are hidden motives involved? Are the papers biased against a particular country?

The other foreigner in the news is Nancy Kissel, who was previously convicted of murdering her husband but now has an opportunity to overturn the conviction. Again, there are differences in how the two papers approach the story, though this time nationality is not at issue.

The Standard hasn't bothered printing a single article about a possible retrial of Ms. Kissel, but the South China Morning Post, which has shown interest in covering the trial's new developments, printed a story on 2 November 2010 in which an anonymous staff writer seems to complain about a recent court order that effectively gags media coverage of the new hearings. In regards to the Kissel case, perhaps the familiar saying applies, 'another man's trash is another man's treasure'.

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