Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In the News

She was a reporter for Xinhua News Agency. She traveled the country and had many adventures. She also saw many things that never made it on the nightly news.

“There were things I wanted to report, but knew I couldn't,” she says. “I didn't want to get sent to the mountains.”

Reporters that crossed the line too often were sent on a six-month retreat, she says, where they relearned the principles of socialist journalism. She saw it happen to a colleague.

“You can't see your family or friends the whole time,” she says. So she never crossed the line. But she didn't like it.

“Besides, I wanted to travel abroad,” she adds. “And it's hard for a journalist to get a passport, unless you're assigned as a foreign correspondent.”

So she quit her job and used her skill in English to land a job in an international trading company.

He was a correspondent for CNN, and then a journalism professor in Ohio. He now works in the news bureau of ICS, the English-language channel in Shanghai.

“The role of the media in China is to shape public opinion,” he explains. Its goal is to build consensus, not foment unrest or monger fear.

The news in China does have a decidedly positive tone—economic projections met, the day's events at the World Expo in Shanghai.

So I'm surprised by the heavy coverage of the recent earthquake in Qinghai. We see toppled buildings, rubble in the streets, bloodied bodies carried away on stretchers. The casualty reports are surprisingly large.

But we also see rescue workers extracting a little girl from the rubble, distributing water and food. And we see Premier Wen Jiabao touring the site, talking with the people. We hear about the generosity of the Chinese people, who have donated so much to the relief effort.

The role of the media in China is to shape public opinion. And the government has skillfully used a disaster to bring its people together. It is also sending its people a clear message: “We will take care of you.”

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