Edwin Maher: Sellout or Shill? You Decide!
Sherman Oaks, California
"How do you become that guy?" my friend Chris asked while we were watching television in Beijing. "How on earth does that happen?"
That guy is Edwin Maher, the anchor of the CCTV Channel 9 English-language news. Every weekday evening, Maher would read the news with a slow, punctilious delivery aimed at viewers who had learned English as a second language.
It was an odd sight, a vaguely patrician Western man, somewhere in his 50s, reading propaganda pieces dictated by the Chinese Communist Party. The broadcasts were simultaneously fascinating and boring (although not as boring as the newspaper China Daily, in which it is common for every paragraph of the lead article to end with the phrase "Hu Jintao said.").
My friend's question has been answered. John M. Glionna of the Los Angeles Times reported this morning that Edwin Maher made a career as a wacky weatherman in Australia. His wife of 33 years died in 2001 after a traumatic illness and, after taking time off, Maher jokingly offered himself to the Chinese government as a pronunciation coach. The Chinese accepted and, several months later, gave him the job of most visible foreigner in the People's Republic.
Although he is routinely dismissed as a mouthpiece for a repressive government, Maher brushed aside the criticisms. "If the reports aren't balanced, there's nothing I can do," he said.
Some of the producers at the CCTV Channel 9 news must chafe at their bit. At times, the program would broadcast a brief report, usually near the end, about a protest somewhere in the world -- never in China -- about a "parliamentary reform," the eupemism for democracy. It wasn't often, though.
Maher, for his part, is happy to have a front-row seat for the Chinese economic miracle. "I'm proud to be a part of that," he said. "People can see it differently. I don't care."
Which is the attitude needed in order to be that guy.
LINKS: A profile from The Australian. Maher's official page on the CCTV website.