A TV reporter in the northwestern city of Xi’an is fed up with the city’s education bureau for dodging his interview requests.
According to an article published Monday on the WeChat public account of City Bulletin, a news program that airs on Shaanxi’s state-owned broadcasting network, journalist Chen Zhikai spent an entire month trying to get local cadres to address several education-related concerns.
Chen first approached the Xi’an education bureau on March 1 with five pressing issues concerning early childhood education in the city. Specifically, he hoped officials could address high kindergarten tuition fees, the shortage of pubic education facilities, the uneven distribution of qualified teachers, unreasonable school transfer fees, and private schools’ dubious recruitment practices.
On his first visit to the bureau, Chen presented a letter of introduction from his employer, copies of his press credentials, and his contact information, as is generally required in such situations. According to a photo of the completed interview request form published by City Bulletin, Chen outlined the five issues he wished to discuss. However, the phone call he expected never came.
After a week of waiting, Chen contacted an employee surnamed Yang from the bureau’s publicity and education office. Yang told a disappointed Chen that it was “inconvenient” to arrange the interview, as Chen’s outline was not sufficiently detailed and did not specify which of the bureau’s offices the journalist wished to speak with. In the article, however, Chen refutes this claim, saying that his questions were clearly stated, and arguing that the responsibility of connecting reporters with relevant offices should fall to staff like Yang.
After a month of back and forth, hide and seek, and passing the buck, Chen wasn’t any closer to an interview.
“Basically, the questions you’re asking are ones that our cadres cannot face,” the head of the publicity and education office, surnamed Fei, told Chen. “Even if I were to ask some higher-ups in the bureau, they wouldn’t accept your interview.” According to the article, Fei admitted to Chen that his colleague Yang had deliberately delayed the interview.
Chen had not responded to an interview request by time of publication. When Sixth Tone contacted the Xi’an education bureau’s publicity and education office, an employee surnamed Jiang said that her office had recorded an interview with City Bulletin, Chen’s news show, on Tuesday morning, adding that she wasn’t familiar with the segment’s content or Chen’s unsuccessful petition for an interview.
This is not the first time the government of Xi’an has disappointed its citizens. In August of last year, a reality TV show called “Moment of Government Inquiry” — which grills local officials about problems happening under their watch — highlighted residents’ displeasure with how the city had dealt with unscrupulous tour guides and other scams.
On Monday, provincial news outlet Shaanxi Daily reported that the same show recently polled residents on the local education system. Nearly 80 percent of respondents rated their experience “unsatisfactory.”
Editor: David Paulk.
(Header image: Parents wait for their children to finish the middle school entrance exam in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, May 26, 2012. Zhao Chen/VCG)