Chinese journalists go back to school

School is now in session for China’s entire official press corps after they were ordered to attend at least two days of Marxist classes last month. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal  more than 300,000 reporters and editors were to sit through classes where they would be reminded to help foster stability and support for the government and to listen to senior leaders in selecting content to publish.

Of course, the official press corps is not the only news outlet in China. The Chinese government may be even more concerned about the popular Weibo microblogging service. Not to be left out of the government re-education campaign, users were ordered to stamp out what the government describes as online rumor-mongering, according to another article in the Wall Street Journal.

An August 28 Wall Street Journal article noted that Reporters Without Borders ranks China as 173 out of 179 counties on the organization’s Press Freedom Index. The 2013 report also called the country the world’s biggest prison for Internet users active on social media, with 70 users currently imprisoned.

For more information:

Chinese magazines see new opportunities and challenges

The secular magazine market in China is booming, according to Chinese publishers interviewed recently by Publishing Executive. Chris Hu, publisher of Elle Decoration and Quentin Lin, editorial director and associate publisher of Elle Men, were interviewed at the Yale Publishing Course in England last week. Both publications cater to the rapidly growing affluent urban population and both finance their magazines with advertising of luxury items. The advertising income is essential, they say, because glossy magazines cannot make money selling magazines on the newsstand.

Another challenge is distribution.  China is a large country spread across five time zones, and the 21 provinces have varying policies for periodical distribution, ranging from newsstands to the post office to state-owned stores, making it impossible to establish a unified distribution policy.

But one of the biggest problems is the gap between the rich and the poor and rural areas and cites. This requires different marketing strategies in different places.

Nevertheless, some magazines have managed to overcome at least some of the obstacles to grow exponentially. According to a China Daily report, Men’s magazines, a relatively new entry in the Chinese media market, have enjoyed an annual growth of 30 percent since 2006.

Social media may have been a factor in this growth. There are more than 500 million Internet users in China and according to a Chinese government report over half are on a social network. China’s microblog, Weibo, is an important tool for magazines, says Lin, and publishers are making increasing use of social media.

Work as a journalist in China, however, is not without its dangers. Two senior newspaper executives in Shanghai were recently removed from their positions, presumably because of incautious reporting on sensitive issues.

China’s changing face of journalism

Social media is transforming Chinese journalism, according to the International Center for Journalism, whose representative attended a recent conference on international journalism sponsored by Tsinghua University. At the conference, Qu Yingpu, deputy editor-in-chief of the state-controlled China Daily, said that social media was spreading news so rapidly that it was no longer possible to control the flow of information.

Shi Anbin of Tsinghua University urged journalists to learn from the example of Andy Calvin’s one-man newsroom which covered the Middle East during the Arab Spring in 2011 for National Public Radio by relying on numerous local activists, bloggers, and reporters using social media like Twitter.

Li Liangrong, professor of journalism at Fudan University, said the standard for news presented on the Web should be open, fair, equitable, extensive, and intensive.

In fact, many Chinese count on the Internet for fast and possibly more accurate news reporting than they can get in the daily papers. The proliferation of cell phones, now well over 1 billion, make it possible for ordinary citizens to become instant “journalists” with far-reaching impact.  Just ask the Russian cellist who was fired after someone used his cell phone to film an altercation and posted it on the Internet.

Cell phones are a key element driving the instant news phenomenon.  The nation’s on-line mobile phone users total 370 million, about 70 percent of the total Internet users. Access to the Internet for them is instant and available just about anywhere.

China still tries to control and “cleanse” information disseminated on the Web. However, the fast access offered by mobile phones and the proliferation of social media make the job increasingly difficult.

China: Still waiting for the green light on Christian magazines

“We sell these in our church!” The enthusiastic response of the bubbly young Chinese woman when asked where she had gotten the Christian t-shirt she sported. She spent over two hours in the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association booth at the Beijing Book Fair, looking at books and talking with the Americans manning the booth. The incident took place over 10 years ago and only a few hours after an encounter with another Christian young woman who, frightened as a young rabbit on the side of a freeway, refused to even set foot in the booth. Standing in the hallway she faced straight ahead as her eyes flicked to the left, where shelves of Bibles and Bible reference materials were displayed. “Especially those,” she said.

Trying to get a handle on…fill in the blank…in China? It’s like trying to grab a hold of a greased pig. You think you have the right foreleg in your grasp and suddenly it’s gone.  “You can say anything about China and it will be true somewhere in China, ” goes the saying. The other side of the coin is that whatever you claim about China will also be false somewhere in China. Nevertheless, there is evidence that despite reports of persecution of Christians in various places, Christian literature is making an inroad in China.

In a January article in Christianity Today titled “Discipling the Dragon: Christian Publishing Finds Success in China” author John W. Kennedy cites “a surge across China in the availability of popular Christian titles by authors Rick Warren, Gary Chapman, and Beth Moore, as well as classic titles by C.S. Lewis and others.”  He says that although statistics on Christian book sales are unreliable, it is evident that more books are available from more sources, recently including on-line booksellers.

Kennedy’s very useful article on Christian publishing did not mention magazines, which are still strictly controlled by the government. Nevertheless, with the growth of huge networks of house churches, the number of Christian magazines, while published “under the radar” is mushrooming. Compared to the densely printed—white space is a waste—black and white approach to underground publishing in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during the communist years, some of these Chinese underground publications are peacocks, colorfully illustrated, slick publications. When will Christian magazines be legally available in the same venues as Christian books? When that day comes, watch out! Aspiring Christian magazine publishers are waiting in the wings.

“Discipling the Dragon: Christian Publishing Finds Success in China”