Since last year, Reuters has been leading coverage of the U.S. government’s crackdown on TikTok, the Chinese-owned popular short-video app, through a series of exclusives and extensive deep dive reports. Reuters was first with key developments, explaining the implications for consumers, TikTok’s Chinese parent company ByteDance and relations between the world’s two largest economies. In a Reuters Best: Journalist Spotlight Q&A, Deals Reporter Echo Wang gives a behind-the-scenes look at how the team has been covering the story.
Q: What has it been like covering TikTok?
A: A roller coaster ride. It’s moving fast and highly competitive, so we have been maximizing our speed. There are times when big scoops bring you to the top of the game, but that’s always followed by fear of losing the next one. And it has been a bit of a puzzle game – the forced divestiture of TikTok is a highly unusual situation, and it involves multiple parties from the White House to Microsoft and General Atlantic alike. Many things, including some of the President’s involvement, is unprecedented, so it takes lots of reporting to make sense of what is going on.
Q: What were some of the big wins covering the story?
A: Lately, we were the first to report that President Trump would give ByteDance 45 days to negotiate a sale of TikTok. An executive order the president later issued confirmed our scoop. We started covering TikTok’s potential regulatory challenges with operating in the U.S. before the story was widely discussed. We were the first to report the U.S. opened a national security inquiry into TikTok, which was the beginning of the saga. We exclusively reported on TikTok’s owner shifting power out of China, and its exit out of Hong Kong. In the negotiations involving the White House, we exclusively reported that TikTok’s owner agreed to divest the U.S. operation of TikTok completely to save a deal with the White House. This is only possible because we have a great team of colleagues working together from NY, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Beijing and Hong Kong.
Q: What was the hardest part of the reporting?
A: Getting sources to talk to us. I think that’s essentially the case for all deals reporting, as we are chasing confidential information. But reporting on TikTok is particularly challenging, as it touches on business and politics amid the escalating tension between the world’s two largest economies.
Q: Why are these stories important to tell our customers?
A: These stories are at the intersection of business, politics, the United States and China – they are a tale of our time. They can be a window to understand how the current political tension is impacting the market.
Q: What makes you passionate about journalism?
A: The pursuit of facts.
Q: What is your beat and what do you find most fulfilling about it?
A: I write about the intersection of Chinese business in the U.S., deals, and IPOs. Cross-border deals like TikTok and Grindr have been the focus of my reporting in the past months. It’s a great place to be for a journalist as I’m telling one of the most important stories of our time that involves the world’s two largest economies and their impact on the market.
Q: What have been your most rewarding and most difficult experiences as a journalist?
A: Being recognized for good performance is always rewarding, but actually it is more about tiny moments in my day – sources picking up my calls and passing around my stories because they think they are good—these are the things that make my day.
Q: Can you imagine being anything other than a journalist? If so, what?
A: If there was no free press for me to work for, I could imagine myself being an architect, although I have no training, a pasta maker in a small village in southern Italy, which I also have no training for, or a fiction writer. And also, a regulatory lawyer; I have worked with them on a lot of my stories and really admire their work.