Ok, maybe the title I picked for this post is too long and I'm sure I referenced too many body parts, but yet again, I've gotten myself in way over my head.
Last week, I was asked to fill in as the English editor on the university newspaper. They taunted me with a little financial incentive and I grabbed the bait. Oh, the regrets we have in hindsight. I am now OFFICIALLY working for a paper that whenever I got within arms reach of it (sorry more body parts), I was instantly repelled. (I've sold out.)
As you can recall from this post in August, I started my stint in Cambodia with good intentions of learning about the Cambodian media - the Cambodian "free" media. But every time I tried to do little projects for the paper, a little story here and a little editing here, I had a bad physical reaction. I got sweaty and nervous and nauseous - like every journalistic instinct in me was yelling, "Run for the hills!"
Let me give you a little background info on the dear CW. The president of the university has given the reporters "full reign" over the newspaper. Ha! If full reign means that he dictates unclear deadlines and has reduced the newspaper to only education and culture issues, giving "priority" interviews to our students and to government officials, then sure. It's totally unreasonable. He orders the managing editor to "improve the content" (which I will admit needs improving) yet the editor lives in fear that his next decision will result in yet another lecture and more burdensome "suggestions" for improvement.
In a meeting today, I suggested that in order to improve the content, we identify an audience for the paper. Define who it is we want to read the paper. Basic J101 stuff, right? Well, this he took offense to, saying that we could always perform a study to see who reads our paper, but why let our audience dictate our content. (Newsflash: No one reads it!) He handled the suggestion like a politician, spewing ideology, but never giving me a useful answer.
Maybe everyone else who works at this university will bow down to "all holier than thou" but I most certainly was not. I wasn't going to let him yell at these reporters when he didn't even want to bother to work on answering a simple question. I persisted. Kept wrangling him back to the point. Dodging bullets with "Of course education is an important subject that should be reported on" and "With all due respect, maybe we should interview students from other universities."
I never got my answer.
Needless to say, I've taken it upon myself to help out the editor. I feel bad for him. He doesn't plan on staying there long and well, the newspaper sucks and he knows it. I could gladly accept my bait money and edit English and leave it at that, but then I'd have this darn conscience hovering over me.
Let the free press prevail in Cambodia!
I guess I'll make due with just having an ulcer instead.