These three newspapers, arguably the most powerful dailies in the U.S., came together to publish an open letter to the Chinese government asking it to reconsider kicking out select journalists from the country.
But the real audience for this letter isn’t the Chinese government; it’s the American public.
Avoiding hyper and hyperbole, the letter takes a measured tone.
What follows is the complete letter with adjectives and adverbs highlighted.
An Open Letter to the Chinese Government
The coronavirus pandemic sweeping across borders, sickening and killing people in nearly every country, and sending the world economy into a downward spiral, is a global challenge unlike any other in our lifetimes. Perhaps more than any major news event in modern history, this moment underscores the urgent importance of both probing, accurate, on-the-ground reporting from the centers of the pandemic and of sharing the information, insights and lessons that reporting reveals as widely as possible.
In this moment of shared crisis, China has decided to expel American journalists from a number of news organizations, including the three we oversee, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post and The New York Times. This move — made in retaliation for recent expulsions by the United States government — is one that we would protest under any circumstances. But it is uniquely damaging and reckless as the world continues the struggle to control this disease, a struggle that will require the free flow of reliable news and information.
We strongly urge the Chinese government to reverse its decision to force the Americans working for our news organizations to leave the country and, more broadly, to ease the growing crackdown on independent news organizations that preceded this action. The media is collateral damage in a diplomatic dispute between the Chinese and U.S. governments, threatening to deprive the world of critical information at a perilous moment.
The earliest reports on the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and its rapid spread were brought to the outside world by the journalists who work for us in China, as well as their colleagues for other leading news organizations. We have sent our reporters to live for extended periods in the center of the outbreak to document the toll of the disease and the struggle to treat those afflicted with it. We have prominently featured news and analysis about China’s remarkable progress in reducing the spread of the virus through containment and mitigation. Even now, with some of our journalists facing imminent expulsion, they are reporting on how China is mobilizing state resources to develop vaccines that could offer hope to billions of people there and around the world.
Our news organizations are rivals. We compete with each other on the biggest stories, including this one. But on this matter we speak with a single voice. Both countries — and the rest of the world — benefit from having talented journalists, many of them fluent in Chinese and versed in Chinese culture, cover the world’s second largest economy, the center of global manufacturing, and, unfortunately, a population hard hit by one of the worst pandemics of modern times. Even when this crisis passes we believe both countries will continue to benefit from freer access to news and information about the other.
Amid tensions between superpowers, journalism bolsters strong, confident societies by providing to leaders and citizens important information and awareness to inform their lives and decisions — even, perhaps especially, when it is challenging to governments. We believe it is unambiguously in the interests of the people of both countries, as well as their leaders, to let journalists do their work.
William Lewis, Publisher, The Wall Street Journal
Fred Ryan, Publisher, The Washington Post
A. G. Sulzberger, Publisher, The New York Times
This letter earns an A- in my book.
Note the dearth of adjectives that pound on the chest aside from a “biggest.”
And the letter resists the showy adjectives in making its case for why their journalists should stay in China.
But it’s not a perfect narrative.
The passage “underscores the urgent importance of both probing, accurate, on-the-ground reporting from the …” falls into the trap of “telling” rather than “showing.”
And why didn’t the copy editor flag the awkward “unambiguously,” as in “We believe it is unambiguously in the interests of the people of both countries …”
Circling back to the letter’s objective, I’m sure Americans heard the message. Given what’s happening in the U.S. and the provincial nature of Americans, I’m not so sure they care.