Increasing Complexity of Media in China a Growing Challenge

Our consultants in Beijing interviewed ten foreign journalists operating in China (publications listed at end of article) and asked the following questions: Where do you go to for your information? How do you conduct your research? How do you see the cooperation between PR agencies and media? When are your deadlines – do you have an editorial calendar? What trends do you see in the Chinese media industry? Our first question, which asked where the journalists go to read news that not necessarily included research for a story, revealed that overwhelmingly that journalists rely on the Internet as their daily news source. This is hardly surprising given the overall declining trend of print media and the always on, instant news that the Internet provides users. Many journalists are regular users of RSS feeds and are regular users of China-related blogs, such as Danwei and ESWN. Our second and third questions asked how journalists conduct their research and asked their opinions on the role of PR agencies in this process. Most of the journalists have said that they conduct most of their research through government announcements and records or through face-to-face interviews; with the Internet used only to round off first hand sources. While most of the journalists do not rely on PR agencies for many of their stories, all have said that they see the value that PR agencies provide, despite the common stereotype that journalists view these agencies as an annoyance. One journalist even stated that he would like to rely more on PR agencies, but they rarely approach him with potential stories or information. We then went on to ask about deadlines and if editorial calendars are used. Judging from the answers to our questions, editorial calendars are gradually becoming less important as deadlines become increasingly short. The reason for this is simple: news is becoming immediate and ever changing. Publications are becoming increasingly like newspapers; they cannot plan too far ahead because news happens too fast. What is relevant now, may be completely irrelevant a month from now. With readers expecting news immediately and currently relevant, journalists are under increasing pressure to make even tighter deadlines. Our final questions asked if these journalists saw any trends in the Chinese media and the overwhelming response was that it was becoming more complex, despite remaining closed relative to the general international media. The media is becoming more complex in that the lines between government opinion pieces and editorials are becoming increasingly blurred, making it harder for journalists to ascertain State and individual opinion. There was an overall streamlining of the media in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but the progress in openness that was made is slowly being eroded by internal concerns such as the 60 th anniversary of the People’s Republic in China and ethnic unrest in Xinjiang, which led to the blocking of social media sites Facebook and Twitter. Concluding, we have found that journalists rely overwhelmingly on the Internet for their own personal news, but only use the Internet for their research to round-off first-hand sources such as government announcements and interviews. The general view is that journalists see the value that PR agencies provide and actually welcome more agencies to approach them, despite their current relatively low reliance on them. With news becoming immediate and increasingly time sensitive, editorial calendars are gradually becoming less relevant as deadlines becoming increasingly tighter, creating increasing pressure on journalists to file stories as soon as possible. The most revealing conclusion is that foreign journalists in China see the media as becoming increasingly complex as domestic issues, which are causing concern among the top ranks in the Communist Party, are slowly eroding forward progress. Media Surveyed: BBC, The Economist, The Financial Times, New York Times, Newsweek, Sky News and the Wall Street Journal.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *