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 their audiences, 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.