Quiet life beckoned, then this happened
Monday 26 October 2015
When at the age of 66 I was rather unceremoniously told my job at Bloomberg was being eliminated, with immediate effect, I thought my life as a journalist was at an end, two years short of the 50 years as a hack I had targeted. So, not being the world’s best gardener, I tackled the job of taking a degree and becoming a full-time grandfather.
Wrong. China Daily came knocking and before I knew it I had signed a contract to be managing editor, Europe for China’s oldest English-language daily newspaper. Thanks to them, I have now racked up 50 years in journalism.
It’s been a revelation, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Part of the new China is tapping into the experience and talent that the rest of the world has to offer. My brief on joining China Daily was to bring in elements of Western journalism, and help the young, and extremely eager, reporters produce a fair and balanced newspaper.
My thoughts immediately switched to the late George Short, a good friend whose training techniques were legendary. Who, why, what, where and when is the main lesson I have been hammering home in my periodic training sessions, and no editorialising.
The old saw that the Chinese respect age and experience has been apparent in all my dealings with my new employer. It took a bit of getting used to at first, but when my colleagues ask for my advice, they’re serious.
But other old preconceptions have been exploded - I find myself working with an enthusiastic, eager, disciplined group who aren’t afraid to laugh at things and, surprise, surprise, enjoy good food.
Any worries I had about being the only Westerner in an office staffed almost exclusively by Chinese have long gone. It’s a revelation to realise that they appreciate me for who I am and what I know.
I find myself drawing on my Reuters experience far, far more than from the years I spent at Bloomberg. Reuters training, back then, was as good as it gets
There are other pluses - planning for the coverage of the state visit by President Xi Jinping was not unlike being involved in diplomatic set pieces in days gone by at Reuters. In fact I find myself drawing on my Reuters experience far, far more than from the years I spent at Bloomberg. Reuters training, back then, was as good as it gets.
Access to UK government officials, especially given the new emphasis on relations with China, is very straightforward. I have long since stopped explaining that we have a weekly circulation of 100,000 in Europe (ABC audited), a daily circulation in China in excess of 900,000, and 52 million hits a day on the website.
It’s fascinating being part of the newspaper that acts as a way of reporting the UK for China, and reporting China for the rest of the world.
One of the most satisfying parts of my new role is the freedom to write two opinion columns a week, on virtually any subject I choose.
So the message from someone in his 69th year is, there’s life in the old dog yet, and it’s very enjoyable.
PHOTO: Chris Peterson interviewed in London's Chinatown by Chinese television during the visit of President Xi Jinping
Chris Peterson joined Reuters in 1970 and worked in Singapore, Saigon, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Paris and Hong Kong as a correspondent and latterly chief correspondent before leaving in 1991. ■