Vice President Joe Biden is visiting Eastern Asia this week, and he took the opportunity to meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to “strongly condemned China’s recent decision to establish a new air defense zone over the contentious waters of the East China Sea Tuesday as he warned that ‘the prospects of miscalculations and mistakes are too high,'” as reported in the Wall Street Journal.
Both the Journal and New York Times covered this important diplomatic moment, each with their own take as always. The Journal was heavy to read, with long sentences and political correctness and terms. They were very forthright with their title though: “Biden Condemns China Air Zone”. They also mentioned an upcoming treaty, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that the Times did not mention. While politically-themed articles are not my personal favorite to read or cover, this air-space fiasco could ignite already smoldering tensions between China and Japan.
“One of the main goals of Mr. Biden’s visit to Tokyo was to press Japan to help complete talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade pact that covers 12 countries comprising 40% of the world’s gross domestic product, before the administration’s stated goal of the year’s end.”
Opposite of the Journal’s article, the Times conveyed a more lighthearted attempt for this news, even closing the story with a funny anecdote of the trip: “Mr. Biden seemed to delight in being accompanied around Tokyo by Ms. Kennedy, whose name has given her celebrity status in a post that has frequently been held by prominent political figures, including one of Mr. Biden’s predecessors, Walter F. Mondale.Before his meeting with Mr. Abe, the vice president jokingly introduced himself by saying, “My name is Joe Biden, and I’m accompanying the ambassador” – a line that echoed John F. Kennedy’s famous quip when he was overshadowed on the presidential trip to France in 1961 by his glamorous wife, Jacqueline Kennedy.”
Both newspaper articles convey this uncertainty very well.
“Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. delivered a carefully calibrated show of support for Japan on Tuesday, declaring the United States was “deeply concerned” about China’s move to control airspace contested with Japan. But he stopped short of demanding that China retreat, and urged the feuding neighbors to talk to each other,” as reported in the Times.
The truth of these stories is stated plainly: the U.S. does not support China’s idea to enforce a a no-fly zone, and that the best way to avoid any skirmishes is to open up the lines of communication.
“But rather than call for China to roll back its defense zone, as the Japanese government has called on China to do, Mr. Biden said that China and Japan needed “crisis management mechanisms and effective channels of communication” to avoid the risk of an accident or miscalculation,” as reported in the Times.
Both newspapers devoted around 700 words to each of their pieces, using a stock photo used in other publications. More conjecture and less quotes were used in the Times article, and almost all words in the Journal article were quotes. I believe that the perfect balance of quotes and a reporter’s interpretation of the facts is exactly in the middle of these two stories.