AsiaXPAT: It seems to me that despite the economic woes in your home country right now, there is still not a massive exodus in search of opportunities elsewhere.
Ana Perez: The thing with Spanish culture is traditionally people don't go to other countries. But if there is no opportunity at home, they should certainly consider it.
AX: Why is there such reluctance? Because the quality of life is so good in Spain?
AP: Yes life is good and people like to stay with their families but there is also a lack of motivation. The culture is very familiar. We have a saying in Spanish which is: “There is nothing like Spain.” You know, there is no better wine in the world, no better food, no better weather; there is no better anything. So why should we go to another place and suffer when we already have the best? Of course I appreciate my country greatly, but I think this kind of attitude is not necessarily healthy. If you think there is nothing better than you then there is nothing to work toward or strive to improve for. There is a complete sense of complacency.
AX: Did you leave because of lack of opportunity?
AP: When I left my country six years ago I was upset with the way the political and money establishment was ruining the country. There was a lot of bribery and corruption. You got to have connections if you want to do something big and that was also true in the media business. I have a Spanish friend who is a lawyer based in Hong Kong and she tells me that there is the same issue with working in law in our country. Success is not necessarily based on ability, it is based on connections and many of those connections are the result of bribery.
AX: So after a brief stint in the UK you come out to Asia and start filing reports from here back to Spain. What sort of interest in Asian affairs is there back home?
AP: They don’t know much about Asia but they certainly feel they should know more. It’s hard to deny that the economic growth is no longer in Europe, it's in Asia and China so we are getting bigger audiences for our reports back home.
AX: Is there are any semblance of Chinese culture in Spain?
AP: Yes there is a bit of a Chinese presence in Spain. In Madrid there is a fairly large Chinatown. But there are still a lot of misconceptions about China among the general public in Spain. So many people think that the people in the mainland are living like they did under Mao. But I have been saying on the radio for the last four years that it’s not like that. The changes in China almost have to be seen to be believed.
AX: You seem to take your profession and your position quite seriously.
AP: I really like to study all facets of journalism, TV, radio, print. And I like to do everything in the profession from writing to broadcasting and producing. But I do think that the profession is kind of broken and I think that the new kind of media, like social media, has so few rules and because of that we don’t really have news anymore.
AX: Is there a lack of journalistic ethics?
AP: Well social media goes against journalism in many ways and I am very much against a lot of it. I am more interested in facts and relevant newsworthy stories. To me that is what journalism is about.
AX: You sound like a complete throwback because your generation has been basically raised on social media. So you are not on Facebook.
AP: No I am not. I don’t know why people feel the need to show all of their life and to make a spectacle out of it. It's not my style, I believe in privacy and respect.
AX: Do you believe that there is integrity in journalism still or are we past the point of no return?
AP: I used to be very romantic about my profession. But now I just think there is a general lack of ethics in the media. It seems like it's not about reporting news any longer, it’s about selling a product.
AX: Do you find that depressing, losing that youthful idealism?
AP: Very. It's kind of heartbreaking in the beginning but then you have to realize that you have to adapt and understand it’s part of the business. I love my career very much and try to make it better but it seems impossible. I would like to make the way I work and report news more ethical and honest, but it is not easy. The demand for meaningful stories with depth and insight is diminishing.
AX: Are you sure it’s not possible?
AP: If you want to work you can't really go against the system.
AX: Well when you say the system are you saying that the stories they want you to report on are not necessarily the ones you want to report on?
AP: Yes, sometimes.
AX: You have to give me an example. If you could change parts of it, what would you do?
AP: Well I don't think we get nearly all the information we need and the real issues that affect us we usually don’t know about them until it's too late. In Spain people think they are living in a democratic country and that over here in China it's a very restrictive country. But those people think because they can vote like once every four years that they have a say on how things are being run and that is really naïve. And the media, what power do they have now? You go to a press conference but you are not allowed to ask questions. Hilary Clinton came here last July and after going through this very thorough screening process that we had to pass to get access to the room where she was speaking, they only let eight journalists in the room. The rest of us had to watch it on a monitor in a hall nearby. And for me this is a virtual wall. We couldn't ask questions and really we were forbidden to do our work. So what do you want me to report? I report nothing, because that’s what you give us.
AX: It’s not a press conference; it's a PR briefing and a photo op. They dictate the story, not you. But I truly appreciate your passion for your craft. So how would you change things if you could?
AP: Well first thing I would do is to allow media members to ask questions, otherwise don’t call it a press conference. The Prime Minister of Spain came to Asia three times last year and we were not allowed to ask questions. I called my boss in Spain and told him I am not going to this press conference because it’s not a press conference. It’s just a speech so they can email me it. Don’t waste my time. But my boss insisted I had to go and after a long discussion I said ok. Turns out it was nonsense, a complete waste of time.
AX: So what has your time here taught you about Asian culture?
AP: I have discovered another way of thinking and feeling, In Spain and Europe and the US, there is a lot of money and material goods. And yet there is still a high level of unhappiness. But here if you go to places like Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam where the people don't have much, they are still happy. You can tell by the way they laugh and by the way they look at you and how they treat you. It's a happiness from the inside and it’s much deeper and profound. I like that joy in simplicity.
AX: Maybe it's part of the maturation process for you as well?
AP: Yeah maybe, maybe it’s growing from my time here and maybe it’s me not Asia (smiling).
AX: So what does the future hold for you career wise?
AP: The future? You know my time in Asia has taught me something and that is to stick to the moment. To live for now.
AX: It sounds so simple but it's often hard to do.
AP: But you have to do it. For me I have no idea what is going to happen next month. I have lost jobs when I did not expect to and I found jobs when I did not expect to. So I am learning and enjoying the moment right now.