Robert Patterson’s Tour of China

In June 1971 Robert Patterson, a 66-year-old newsman, filed a series of five reports for the San Francisco Examiner detailing his odyssey through mainland China. His journey was inspired by the popular interest in Chinese culture following President Nixon's official visit to that country. The series ran on the Examiner's front page.

Patterson discussed details such as his difficulty obtaining an entry visa, witnessing Chinese citizens doing calisthenics in the street every morning, and receiving acupuncture at a Chinese hospital for chronic hip pain.

However, his reports caused Paul Avery, a reporter at the rival San Francisco Chronicle, to become suspicious. Avery noted Patterson had not reported anything he "couldn't have picked up by doing some research or by watching the President's trip on TV."

Learning of Avery's suspicions, the Examiner started its own investigation. They discovered there was no record of Patterson having received a visa to enter China. When questioned about this, Patterson admitted he had been unable to receive a visa. He said he had entered China illegally, but he insisted he had gone. However, he couldn't come up with any evidence he had gotten further than Hong Kong: no hotel receipts, travel photos, or hospital record of his acupuncture treatment.

In August 1972 the Examiner published an apology to its readers, stating it had concluded that Patterson had invented his reports of "China from the inside." Patterson was fired.
Links and References
  • Hager, Philip. (Aug 12, 1972). "S.F. Paper Repudiates Story: 'Inside' Look at China May Have Come From Outside." Los Angeles Times.


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