Part of InternewsNext, a series highlighting 30 youth-led media initiatives.
Ms. Cui Zheng, 27, is a reporter with Caixin Media, arguably one of the best newsmakers in China. She covers news related to environment, technology, energy, and food safety and publishes instant news and feature stories on caixin.com, and a magazine, Caixin Century Weekly. Prior to her position in Caixin, she worked as a news assistant with The Guardian.
Zheng recently participated as an Internews Earth Journalism Fellow at the 10th Annual Seafood Summit in Hong Kong. She spoke to Internews about her work as an environmental reporter.
Though you’ve been reporting on environmental issues for many years, you’ve stated that the Bohai oil spill in 2011 was a major story for you – how did that change the way you approach environmental stories?
After more than three years working in environmental journalism, I think I am still a beginner and learner in environmental reporting. I think what makes Bohai oil spill such an important story is its complexity. I've seen the conflict between resource exploitation and preservation, deficiency in China's legal system concerning environmental lawsuits, and complicated politics, both in local government and in foreign companies. [The Bohai case] almost reflects the whole picture of environment issues in China. I think it brought me profound understanding in environmental issues in China.
As a young female reporter, what challenges do you face in covering local environmental issues?
Being young and female sometime makes my work easier (this is a joke!). I think most of my peers are facing similar problems, such as lack of transparency both in governments and polluting companies, and people's reluctance to talk to media. Another huge challenge for me personally is understanding science. There is so much science involved in environmental issues, sometimes it takes a lot of effort to understand them and then pass simpler message to readers.
Do you think young people have a different perspective on environmental issues than their previous generation?
Regarding what is happening in China, there are two sides. On one side, young people have more access to knowledge than their previous generations and are beginning to know the significance of the environment. They have become much more motived to become the solution.
On the other side, the young generation in China has more ability and opportunities to consume than any generation in the past. And young people are embracing the modern style of life by buying more cars and creating more trash; in this way they are also becoming the problem.
How do you think global coverage of environmental issues can be improved?
I think media outlets should give environment reporting more space. Increasing the professionalism of reporters will also help improving coverage. Communication between reporters and training are important, and that is why I think EJN is doing a great job.