The New Yorker on China

On 17 December 2015, Jiayang Fan, Peter Hessler, Evan Osnos, Zha Jianying and Orville Schell looked back at their four decades of reporting on China for The New Yorker.

- ChinaFile: ‘The New Yorker’ on China, A ChinaFile Presents Transcript (full video and transcript)

Prior to the event, Asia Society asked them to describe what their approach to covering China would be, were they to begin their stints in the country anew.

- Asia Society: Part I: How Coverage of China Has Evolved | Part II: How to Cover China in the Present Day


While Jiayang Fan also writes on China, she is in fact an editorial staff of The New Yorker. The magazine's fact checking vigour is legendary in the business. Evan Osnos said fact checking is "about a belief that there are facts, that you can ascertain them, and that they matter, and that you should fight hard to document them". He jokingly mentioned that he made Fan a celebrity by talking about her efforts in fact checking his writings in a symposium in China:

And this idea was like, for a lot of the reporters who were working in Chinese media, it was an exotic experience. To the point that there was a Chinese editor ... who when he was fact checked, when Jiayang called him, he then wrote a piece in a Chinese newspaper “I Was Fact Checked by The New Yorker.”

Zha Jianying (查建英) then provided more anecdotes:

I do have experience with Jiayang, when she was checking my piece on Wang Meng, who is a former culture minister. When I looked at the pages Jiayang was working on, I saw a massacre. She had this method of checking line by line, blocking them out with red ink. I only had that experience with Chinese censors. Because they would also mark with red ink, and I would be horrified. Even someone like Wang Meng, who’s a very high profile writer, was a little bit shocked of getting this phone call from Jiayang all the way from New York, just checking on whether he said this and that.

- Columbia Journalism Review: Fact-checking at The New Yorker, An excerpt from The Art of Making Magazines