Front Page of the Day

More torch than you can handle

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The First, May 4, 2008

It's The First's turn to carry the torch today. Following the all-torch front pages of yesterday's Southern Metropolis Daily and The Beijing News commemorating the Olympic torch's arrival in Hong Kong, Beijng's sports-related daily features three new photos on its front page.

The main photo was taken at Fire Phoenix Square, on Phoenix Island in Sanya, Hainan Province, where the torch embarked on its mainland journey this morning. The photo at lower right shows yesterday's celebration in Macau; at lower left is a shot of a snowman at the Everest Base Camp, where snowfall may threaten the run of the torch up the mountain (Nick Mulvenney at Reuters' Countdown to Beijing blog has an eyewitness account).

The top headline is not torch related: although the May 1 holiday was cut to three days from the Golden Week we've enjoyed in years past, consumer spending was up 16.6% over last year's numbers.

There are currently 2 Comments for More torch than you can handle.

Comments on More torch than you can handle

In general re: Danwei

Joel posted the following several days ago:

“China's online portals aren't permitted to do much news-gathering themselves, so they fill their news pages with reposts of articles from the mainstream media. They add their own touches, of course, such as sensational headlines and photographs that are only tangentially related to the contents of the article they illustrate.”

Now, my question is, how does this sort of thing differ from what Danwei does? Okay, I'll give you this: Danwei is less "tangential". Now, in what way are the contributors to Danwei prohibited from doing “much news-gathering”? Oh, and I am assuming that you get the permission to repost all the photos on your site, and it’s not an accident that you only repost photos from Chinese sites, right? The credits are at the bottom of the page, right? Danwei accepts advertising and yet very little of the content is original material. That’s not really blogging, and it strikes me as a bit dishonest. Someone else, someone you haven’t credited, took those photos, probably in seeking monetary rewards.

How much should we trust a website that posts translations (unchecked and verified) from ESWN, CDT, and others, then makes/allows comments on them? This isn't blogging.

I say all this because Danwei seems to be making money from advertising – I can only guess at how much. Do any of your contributors ever go back and check the veracity of some of the translations you post, or are you willing to stand by those translations that you have reported on without having checked their accuracy? For a site that harps on the shoddy reporting in China, you guys seem to get up to a fair bit of it yourself too.

One final question: a Chinese newspaper reporter writes something, it gets edited, published. Once removed from whatever the truth is. ESWN, CDT does the hard work and translates it. A step further away. You take the photos, provide a link, and add your own commentary. 3 steps, your out (of the loop, that is).

Put in some real work.

Sure, A Mei Zing, Danwei does what the portals do, in a way. My comment in that post wasn't a criticism so much as a statement of fact. What I had in mind were things like the repost of the (eventually debunked) report about the easing of magazine sales restrictions over the Olympic holiday: the very end of the article had one mention of Playboy, but the vast majority of portals ran the entire piece under a headline like "Playboy to be openly sold during the Olympics" and illustrated it with five Playboy cover scans. You can't begrudge the lowly web editor a bit of fun.

And because newspapers often bury intriguing bits of information at the bottom of their articles, sometimes the portals' headline choices really illuminate something about how Chinese journalism works (see this article for an example).

As for "news-gathering," surely you're aware of China's press regulation laws? Besides, we're not attempting to be a news site - we want to provide translations from the Chinese press and links to interesting articles on other sites.

We link to those articles because we want people to read them. We may give an excerpt here, but the text still requires readers to click through. We can't vouch for their accuracy, although most of the translators we link to have a proven track record. But then, we can't really guarantee our own translations 100% (yes, we do indeed have our own translations. Have you read any more of the site apart from the first few posts on this page? Did you even read the translation that ran underneath the comment of mine you quoted above? Have you ever noticed CDT or ESWN reposting our content?) - they aren't peer-reviewed, we haven't verified the original articles, and like most everything else you find on blogs, you should double-check before using them for anything serious.

But that's simple to do, because we cite our sources at the bottom of each post, including the image source if it's not from one of the articles involved.

We welcome constructive criticism. If you have anything more specific, I'd invite you to contact me by email, or put it in this thread, where I discussed some of these issues last year.

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