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  Chinese Way>Life
The Woman behind the Lens


As one of the best-known faces at influential State media outlet China Central Television (CCTV), 36-year-old Chai Jing stands out with her career achievements and journalistic integrity.

Back in 2003, as a newcomer on the investigative reporting team at CCTV, Chai made a name for herself at the forefront of the SARS outbreak in Beijing. On camera, the passionate young woman risked her life by talking face to face with SARS patients in the hospital, her slender figure wrapped in heavy white protective clothing.

Nearly 10 years later, as the host of the program Insight, a 60 Minutes-like program featuring interviews with a variety of people connected to news events, Chai has shifted from her former persona as a tough reporter known for her in-your-face interview style, to a listener who draws out her subjects' points of view.

"In the past, I thought a journalist should express her sense of justice in interviews through a confrontational dialogue. But now I realize that approach can lead the audience to see only part of the world," Chai said, reflecting on her growth as a journalist in an interview with the Global Times in Beijing.

Sitting in a café in eastern Beijing, the short-haired woman, who was off duty and wearing not a trace of make-up, spoke of her experiences with critical introspection.

Chai discussed one of her most memorable interviews on Insight. Her guest was Li Yang, founder of the English language training organization Crazy English, who found himself in the spotlight after his American wife went public with photos of her injuries due to her husband's domestic violence. During the interview, the journalist from Shanxi Province found herself embroiled in a debate over personal views.

Li, a businessman whose focus on career leaves him little time for family, made an attempt to liken himself to Chai, a high-profile career woman, stating that as long as one fulfills filial duties, one is still a good person. Unable to resist, Chai grinned and shot back, saying, "But you know that the marital relationship is the most important for human beings."

"I often find myself swinging between maintaining objectivity and feeling the urge to make a judgment," Chai told the Global Times. "But as a reporter, it's essential that I offer neither praise nor criticism, but simply present the world as it is."

Seeking objectivity

Chai, who majored in accounting at Changsha Railway College in Hunan Province first rose to fame as the host of the daily literature program Gentle Moonlight on Hunan Arts Radio, where she worked from 1994 to 1998. Then she came to Beijing to pursue her studies in journalism and landed a job with CCTV as a reporter in 2001.

Chai said that her motivation to become a journalist was ignited when she went to her college library and saw a series of photos of a 16-year-old prostitute, taken by Zhao Tielin.

"Before seeing those photos, I simply knew that prostitutes existed, but through Zhao's eyes, I could really feel their experience," Chai wrote in a 2010 blog posting.

Last year, Yao Jiaxin, a college student from Xi'an, accidentally hit a young woman named Zhang Miao with his car. When Zhang tried to get Yao's license plate, the motorist stepped out of his car and stabbed her to death. During his trial, which resulted in the death penalty, Yao said that his parents were very strict with him, once locking him in a basement when he didn't perform well in his studies. His father opposed his son's hope of donating his corneas, infamously telling him, "You better take all of your sins with you to the next world."

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