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Feb. 14, 2014, 10 a.m.

From Nieman Reports: Independent Chinese news orgs need to up their game in digital

“Compared to other enterprises, which make commercial interests the top consideration, media organizations should care more about their responsibility to social and public interests.”

Editor’s note: The new issue of our sister publication Nieman Reports is out and online. There’s a lot of great reading in there on a variety of subjects, but the primary focus is on the state of journalism in China, with a number of terrific reports from both Chinese journalists and foreign correspondents posted there.

This week, we’ll be sharing excerpts from some of those stories that would be of the most interest to Nieman Lab readers. Here, Hu Shuli, editor-in-chief of Caixin Media and former winner of the Louis M. Lyons Award for Conscience and Integrity in Journalism, writes about what it will take to increase the viability of independent news organizations in China.

nieman-reports-winter-2014-coverTechnology development has been reshaping the media industry worldwide. In developed countries like the United States, traditional media companies felt the shock brought on by new technology several years ago. The global financial crisis made their survival even more difficult, but it also forced traditional media in those countries to adapt to — even embrace — change.

The situation in China is different. A couple of years ago, while traditional media outlets in developed countries were suffering through their transitions, many in China’s newspaper industry remained quite optimistic about the business outlook, believing that traditional media would remain dominant in the public sphere and continue to grow for at least the next five to six years.

However, changes have come much faster than expected. In the face of the rapid growth of Internet access, the market for traditional media has quickly eroded. Most of China’s media outlets are now struggling both internally, from inefficient management, and externally, from regulatory controls. In recent years, commercial interests have also affected the industry tremendously; weak self-discipline has facilitated media corruption.

This corruption is seen in the unforgivable practice of “rent-seeking” — taking bribes to fabricate stories. The problem is, in China’s peculiar political and media environment, where some media companies are government-linked, excessive interference and an absence of supervision coexist, making it easier for people to succumb to temptation, be it commercial or political. Thus, some media firms smear companies that refuse to place ads with them, while others are happy to sell themselves as public relations tools. Such practices are no secret within the industry; some even brag about them.

Keep reading at Nieman Reports »

POSTED     Feb. 14, 2014, 10 a.m.
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