It looks like 2007 may be remembered as the year that the mainstream media discovered China -- specifically, issues about manufacturing and safety in China. The concept dawned on me when I read this story from Editor & Publisher, a journal that covers the newspaper industry. The story highlights the leading candidates for the annual Pulitizer Prizes, the top award for newspaper journalists. The headline sums up the biggest news stories of last year in just a few words: "Handicapping The Pulitzers: Walter Reed? Virginia Tech? China? And Likely Some Surprises." Here's what the story has to say about the news story candidates that have a Chinese connection:
Several New York Times projects have received nods and are likely contenders in the national, investigative or explanatory categories. Walt Bogdanich and Jane Hooker are Goldsmith Prize and Selden Ring finalists for "A Toxic Pipeline," their report on diethylene glycol, a toxin imported from China for use in anti-freeze that is found to be suspected of killing hundreds around the Globe. ... Also re:China was Shai Oster of The Wall Street Journal's reporting on China's Three Gorges Dam construction, a Polk award winner that could see success as a Pulitzer foreign news winner, explanatory contender or investigative honoree. Oster looked at the impact of the project on local environmental issues. Another China angle came from the Chicago Tribune, with its revelations about injuries and death resulting from unregulated products imported from China, ranging from dangerous cribs to lead-tainted toys. That series already has won a Polk Award and gotten Selden Ring finalist consideration, as well as sparking a nationwide review of the problem. In a related story, the Salt Lake Tribune has been given a Shorenstein finalist spot for its coverage of the dangers in Chinese factories of carcinogens used in making many of the recalled products.In many ways, those few paragraphs seem to sum up pretty well the prevailing attitude that Americans have toward China. It's a land of toxins and danger. Our homes may be full of made-in-China products, but we look at them suspiciously. It's no wonder that J-M Manufacturing Co. Inc.'s Walter Wang is worried about how the media portrays China. Pulitzer Prizes have a history of focusing public -- and legislative -- attention on issues, so don't be surprised if Washington takes a close look at Chinese manufacturing and safety issues in coming months. Don't think so? Keep in mind that last year, the Los Angeles Times won a Pulitzer for its "Altered Oceans" series, and suddenly the marine debris issue gained huge prominence in California, prompting plastic bag bans all over the country.