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As PBS launches new series on China, former reporter Mike Igoe looks back on three years there

Mike Igoe

Tuesday evening, WNED-TV will broadcast the premiere episode of "The Story of China," a PBS series that will explore that nation's lengthy history, culture and global impact. A former Buffalo television news reporter, who is now an instructor at a Western New York college, spent three years teaching in China and shared his experience with WBFO.

Mike Igoe, an Assistant Professor of Communication at SUNY Fredonia, taught journalism at United International College in Zhuhai, a coastal city located about an hour's ferry ride away from Hong Kong.

Speaking recently in the studios of WBFO, he recalled overcoming challenges beginning with language barriers and then the stricter control of information by the communist Chinese government.

"They're amazed at how free we are," said Igoe about his Chinese students. "Despite what you want to say about America and all the criticism we come under, our First Amendment does mean something. China has something that's equivalent to the First Amendment but it's a joke. It doesn't mean anything at all. 

"Our students were amazed at the foreign teachers, how free we are about speaking about things."

Social media is restricted in China but Igoe says students carefully use technology - developed in the United States, he noted - that helps them get around blocks and stay informed of the world outside their borders. 

China's industry has grown by leaps and bounds in recent decades but, as Igoe noted, they're feeling the adverse effects of such rapid growth.

Credit Mike Igoe

"A lot of the downsides of the environment, the problems, you would not see in the newscast because it's government controlled. But interestingly enough, when my kids went out and did news packages, they showed me some of the problems in their stories," he said. "If you think about it, in some respects the Chinese are like what we were in the Industrial Revolution. There's a price to pay when you burn all this oil, putting fumes in the air and what-not. There are very many communities that did well economically but they found out, after the fact, there's all the consequences: water pollution, air pollution and now they have to deal with it."

Click here to learn more about PBS's "The Story of China."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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