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First of all, learn the language as much as you can, and learn about the history, the background, the current issues. Nobody comes to the ground fully prepared, but you try as much as you can.

Whenever it’s possible, never do parachute journalism. People are based on the ground for years to cultivate sources. In some cases, yes, you are doing parachute journalism, for example, for huge earthquake, or political disasters… But as much as possible, you should know the ground beforehand.”

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— Journalist Mei Fong, talking about what western reporters should do to prepare before going to Asia. This is basically the thrust of my senior thesis, which I wrote about Africa.