Monday, June 2, 2008


Since I began writing for publication in 1996, various editors have shortened, lengthened, rearranged and - on a few occasions - messed up my articles. Titles have been changed - usually for the better, sometimes for the worse.

More than once, I've contributed photos for an article and then been surprised by which ones the editor chooses to use. The picture here was taken for a China Post article on
archaelogical digs in the South Taiwan Science Park. The editor, who is a Taiwanese in his late fifties, didn't use it or any other photos showing skeletons, even though graves are the major focus of the dig and the article. I did wonder if he found pictures of human remains unsettling...

I seldom write about politics, but on a few occasions sentences have been struck because they've touched on something sensitive.

In 2001, I wrote about the
French cemetery in Keelung for the Taipei Times. My main source was a French diplomat (I suspect he was actually France's military attache, operating under a different job title to avoid offending China) who had written a book on the graveyard and the 1884-1885 war. In the days between interviewing him and sending him my text for approval, the 9/11 attacks happened. Citing the attacks, he asked me to remove a reference in my article to many of the soldiers buried in the cemetery being North African, and therefore presumably Muslim. He didn't think it would be good to highlight the fact that hundreds of Muslims lie in a Christian mass grave...

In my original draft of another article, about the
impact Southeast Asian workers are having on small towns in Taiwan, I wrote that the appearance of Thais and Filipinos has, in several places, been the biggest change to the ethnic map since mainland Chinese arrived en masse in 1949. That sentence, which I stand by, was removed by the Government Information Office.

More recently, the Government Information Office also asked me to remove a quote from a local academic I interviewed for this article about
telecommuting. The editor said it didn't show Taiwan in a good light. It certainly doesn't:

"Teleworking can help a woman balance her work and her family. It's also good for disabled people, who face barriers when getting out of their homes,"said Liu Mei-chun, a professor at the Institute for Labor Research at National Chengchi University. But, Liu says, "Sexual discrimination at work, and discrimination against disabled people, are very serious problems in Taiwan. So we can't expect employers to permit teleworking just to help these people."

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