Thursday, October 05, 2006

Don't Fear the Reaper
I was laboring through a deadly and dull assigned tome on Hong Kong private schools when my editor, an excitable erratic and often irrational chap (as well as something of a bully) signaled me to his desk.

He stutters also, but suffice to say he managed to tell me that a popular Hong Kong film and TV comic named Lydia Shum Din-ha (or "Fei-Fei" which means "Fatty") was dead and he wanted an obit asap.

Another reporter had been dispatched to the hospital for the gruesome details and a press conference, he said.

To anyone outside of Hong Kong or China, her name is meaningless -- as it initially was to me -- but I knew the face. It's everywhere here. Fei-Fei is roughly a cross between Roseanne (fat) and Lucy (immensely popular) and her frizzy haired, black bespectacled chubby face is frequently seen in gossip and entertainment mags as well as endorsing countless products.

I Googled her, found some background and began calling people (four total) who might be able to comment, give me more information about her life or lead me to others who could. "Fei-Fei is dead," I said. "Yeah, this afternoon. Cancer, I think...listen I don't know too much about her, can you...etc."

I also told a startled coworker who wandered up to my desk about 40 minutes later looking less shaken.

"How do you know Fei-Fei is dead?" she asked.

"M--- told me. He said Ch--- was at the hospital for a press conference."

"Why is there nothing on TV?" she said, pointing to our news room TVs which were broadcasting weather or traffic reports at that moment. "It would be big news. Everywhere, everyone talking about it. Why are we the only ones who seem to know?"

I went back to M---. "Um...are you sure Fei-Fei is dead?" I asked carefully. He often bristles if even slightly contradicted and, sho 'nuff, began puffing up like a South American toad.

"I did not say she was dead," he sputtered, lying. "I said she is probably dead. Write everything you can find! It does not matter!"

"It does matter because I've already told four people that she's dead," I said in measured tones. "They will be telling others. Now I have to call them back and say we don't know if she's dead."

"It does not matter! Write everything!"

I left him with one tawdry bit that I had gleaned. "One person told me she gave great blow jobs. That's how she was able to keep that good looking boyfriend and husband for so long."

His face wrinkled, collapsed and puffed up again like some kind of grotesque trick balloon. "No! You cannot write that!"

I called the reporter at the hospital who laughed. "No, she's not dead. She has been taken from the ICU and is better. Her daughter is here and telling everyone she feels much better and that she thanks all her fans."

Then I began calling my Fei-Fei sources, including the one who'd given me the oral sex tidbit. He was gracious and laughed when I thanked him for his insight.

Meanwhile, M--- was in the news meeting, presumably telling our editor in chief that our lead story was the death of Fei-Fei. When he emerged, I told him what I had learned from Ch--- at the scene. More sputtering.

Other Chinese reporters (who also dislike him) began drifting by my desk, shaking their heads and saying things like "unbelievable!" One asked me why I'd called those whom I'd already informed of Fei-Fei's "death."

"I had to," I said. "We are a newspaper. People are supposed to trust us and what we say."

She laughed. "I don't believe it. I don't trust anything we write."
Ha - I only trust what is in the Weekly World News
Is the state of journalism in HK really that dire? Well, I guess it's not much better stateside.

But your situation is exactly why I'm so loathe to get a job working with some company instead of freelancing or developing my own business: idiot bosses. I'd have to say that 8 out of 10 supervisors/managers/etc. are complete effing morons. What a jackass!
W told me this story last night. I'm sorry you wasted your time, but at least it makes for an entertaining (and maddening) story
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