Sure, there are four months left on the calendar. But it’s probably not premature to declare 2007 the “Year of the Fakes” in China – not least in Chinese journalism. The year kicked off with the tragic beating death of “fake journalist” (假记者) Lan Chengzhang. Unflagging cases of “fake news” culminated in June with the infamous cardboard bun hoax. Most recently, a regional Chinese newspaper was awarded a top photojournalism prize for a feature page that never was. And behind all of this looms a control system geared toward public opinion “guidance” that is itself a most insidious form of state-sponsored fakery.
It’s only appropriate, then, that the editors at popular web portal QQ.com should apply their skills this week to a special section devoted to fake journalists, gathering together all major related news in the last two years.
As CMP noted with QQ’s recent Jinan flood page, the layout is innovative, incorporating a variety of news reports (about news extortion cases, the nature of press cards, etc.), photos and online forums.
The most recent story, run across the top of the feature page, is about the arrest of nine “fake reporters” in Shanxi Province on August 28, which followed a separate sting on August 4 bringing in 19 “fake reporters.”
Another major story featured on the page is the corruption case of Meng Huaihu (孟怀虎), former Zhejiang bureau chief for China Commercial Times. A sidebar shows an image of Meng’s extravagant home in Zhejiang.
Once again, though, it is the opportunity for reader participation that makes the page most interesting. Web users, for example, can participate in QQ’s online survey by ticking their preferred answers to questions like the following:
[Why do you think there is an inundation of fake reporters?]
*Because real reporters have special privileges
*Because mine owners and government offices have shortcomings and bend easily
*The root of the problem is the fact that the media are half official and half commercial
*Because management is too lax, and some journalists have poor morals
CMP would have ticked the third box, and gives kudos to QQ for opening, even if just a crack, the door to the root cause of bad journalism in China.
And of course web users could click the “participate in the discussion” link from any portion of the feature page, joining in on the comments forum. The limited sample of comments, or gentie, available (close to 300 by Tuesday morning) suggests a profession facing a crisis of public confidence. Here are just a few:
It’s already become impossible to apply ordinary logic to this society of ours. If a small-time thief steals a few thousand yuan from a corrupt official he’s beaten within and inch of his life, but you tell me, who is the real crook here? Basically, the whole society is rotten already, so what good is it talking about those little problems on the branches and leaves?
There’s no such thing as true news here in China. There are many things the state controls and doesn’t let the people know about, so press cards are issued by the state. If they were given out to the public, the state is afraid people will say whatever they want. So if you watch the news in China, you’d better approach it as entertainment.
How much of the news right now is real? Real journalists, fake journalists, they’re all tarred with the same brush!
Say it, can you possibly ferret out how much money these newspaper groups make behind the scenes!!!!!! Journalists get money when they report good stuff, and its only when they don’t get payoffs that they report bad stuff … There aren’t many journalists with a good conscience!!!!!! It’s a problem with the system (是体制问题啊)!!!!!!
The journalists working for this website [QQ] are pretty good! I feel like aside from stuff on the web that’s worth looking at, there’s really not much else.
Right now journalists are the blackest of the black.
We should recognize that most journalists are of good quality and good conscience, and it’s only the bad behavior of a few that’s damaged the image of everyone. It’s terrible!
Why are officials afraid of journalists? Why are corporate bosses afraid of journalists? Because they’re afraid their crimes will be exposed!
[Posted by David Bandurski, September 4, 2007, 1:17pm]