New journos hangout in Shanghai

Note: This blog post also ran in the Society of Professional Journalism’s “Journalism and the World” blog. Click here to see the original post.

If you’re in town in Shanghai on a Thursday night — and now you have an excuse to come visit — join us at Cotton’s Bar on the corner of Anting Lu and Jianguo Lu.

The owner, Cotton, is an old friend of my ex-husband. Tell her I sent you, and that I say “hi.”

She joined us tonight as we were discussing Russia’s right-wing extremists and war reporting (two of my favorite topics).

Wang Lili, a Shanghaiese novelist joined us. In addition to writing novels, she also has an English-language blog.

Other drinkers included folks from Germany, the US, South Africa, and Holland. You know, the usual crowd.

Again, the gathering didn’t break up until the early hours of the morning, though I hurried back to my desk since I had to work. I also stopped drinking after two beers and switched to Diet Cokes. Cotton kept trying to buy me a drink, but I’ve resisted Russians plying me with vodka, Koreans with soju, Chechens with araki. I was not swayed. Also, I had calls scheduled I needed to get back for.

During the winter, I get an extra hour in the evenings — 9 p.m. Shanghai time is only 8 a.m. New York time. But after daylight savings time kicks in, it’s an even 12-hour difference. So 9 p.m. and my editors are already at their desks.

Tonight, I cheated a little bit — I filed most of my stories early, before I headed out. But one story wasn’t coming together and I was supposed to get the info I needed later in the night.

People often ask me about the hours I keep, but I can’t say that I mind. I sleep in on the nights that I work late, and sleep very very late on Saturdays.

The folks I interview are sometimes surprised to find out that I’m calling from China. The connection is almost invariably perfectly clear, so you can’t tell. Three years ago, people were suprised by the fact that I was in China at all, and calling them.

Now, it’s become normal. Everyone is everywhere. I’ve talked to execs of US firms who were in the Middle East, in Europe, and all throughout Asia. Occasionally, the only person on the phone who is in the US is the PR person scheduling the call – and boy, are all the rest of us usually annoyed to find that that we had to stay up in the middle of the night for his or her convenience.

It’s become natural. I cover global securities industry technology — why wouldn’t I be in Shanghai? It’s part of the globe, right?

But, for the most part, I wouldn’t recommend Shanghai to mid-career financial reporters. Go to Hong Kong instead. Life is much easier, the Internet is faster, communications are better (people often have trouble calling into China — Hong Kong is much better). Everybody speaks English and you can buy books, and clothes meant for tall people. Oh, and their Foreign Correspondents Club is fantastic — very British colonial style, a true gentleman’s club (though they let me in last time I was there).

I’m heading to Hong Kong for a conference next month, then for vacation in early May.

I can’t wait.

Still in Shanghai,