Foreign media on China

State media shenanigans and responsible blogging

CCTV News Division's annual party, 2006.
The annual departmental party thrown by CCTV's news division is legendary. For one night a year, state media employees are given an opportunity to poke fun at themselves: stoic news-anchors play against type, skits mock the prescribed news formulas, and dialogue flirts with the risqué. The department has even produced spoofs of classic movies - Lenin in October, Grain - that mocked various CCTV leaders and personalities (details here).

However, things changed at the 2006 event. As spoofs and egao culture exploded on the Chinese Internet, the CCTV party retreated to the safe and familiar. One CCTV journalist gave the following evaluation on her blog (later deleted):

Even though this year's annual party was run by our program, because of directives from the higher-ups, we successfully completed an epochal transformation for this year's party - the tradition of comically roasting the leaders turned into a star-studded song and dance concert. In sum: a change from "news division characteristics" to "Chinese characteristics."

Another blogger expressed disappointment at the lineup of saccharine celebrities and warm-ups for the Spring Festival Gala. Only the presence of Luo Dayou saved the evening from being a total disaster in the eyes of many.

But reports of the death of CCTV's egao spirit were premature - the old hijinks were back at this year's party, which featured digs at the police (it was held at the People's Public Security University) and the CCTV leadership.

A fine article in the Washington Post last week on CCTV's nightly national news broadcast made reference to the annual affair:

Apparently aware of their reputation as stodgy, some of the program's employees reportedly sang a self-mocking song at last month's CCTV Spring Festival party. "No programs are not excellent. No audiences are not loyal. No interviews are not comprehensive," the lyrics went.

Youtube hosts a clip of the song, and a two-hour-long video of the whole party circulates online under the name Oriental Red Horizon (东方红时空). However, that show is from 2002. Is the Washington Post saying that a cover version was shown at this year's event? Perhaps, but the most obvious source for the story is a China Digital Times post about the video that dated the song to 2007 before it was corrected.

This brings to mind Rebecca MacKinnon's year-end survey on the way journalists use blogs. Naturally we try to produce accurate posts at Danwei, but speed generally wins out over polish, and typos and infelicitous phrasing occur with some regularity. Thanks to swift feedback from our readers, we are able to correct most egregious errors; in this case, at least, the Washington Post did not respond to feedback.

In addition to factual accuracy, there's also the issue of providing a larger context for translations that appear on Danwei. It's certainly possible, armed with Google and several hours of free time, to dig up important background material for the latest Southern Media op-ed, but that's not always an option. Readers unfamiliar with the issues may be feel confused or misled.

A collaborative effort like the Chinese Content wiki is one way take advantage of the knowledge of other translators to improve translations and assist in assembling related information. Such online collaborations may be a new media answer to fact-checking and big-picture concerns.

But even without wikis and other collaborative tools, a general understanding exists between bloggers and readers: blog reading is interactive, and mistakes can and should be corrected by readers when they are spotted.

So how valuable is blog-sourced information to readers outside those circles? With Western media in China using blogs and translation websites as sources, it might be wise to acknowledge those sources - both to give credit where it is due and to act as a disclaimer.

Links and Sources
There are currently 1 Comments for State media shenanigans and responsible blogging.

Comments on State media shenanigans and responsible blogging

I have ever seen the Oriental Red Horizon, it is interesting.
But the party seems that is just for intellectuals themselves.

China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
From 2008
Front Page of the Day
A different newspaper every weekday
From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ Culture and corporate propaganda in Soho Xiaobao (2007.11): Mid-2007 issues of Soho Xiaobao (SOHO小报), illustrating the complicated identity of in-house magazines run by real estate companies.
+ Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship (2010.03): Internet executives complain about excessive Net censorship at an officially sanctioned meeting in Shenzhen.
+ Crowd-sourced cheating on the 2010 gaokao (2010.06): A student in Sichuan seeks help with the ancient Chinese section of this year's college entrance exam -- while the test is going on!
Danwei Archives