More Junk From the Internet

Newspapers continue to grapple with the true meaning and implications of information found in online polls and forums. Two examples this week:

1. "Half of Beijing residents oppose ending the ban on fireworks" - Some papers wisely substituted "netizens" for "Beijing residents", but the significance of an online poll that garnered just 969 responses is still considerably overblown. Dressing up the results in fancy pie-charts and forum quotes just adds to the illusion.

Yesterday's Mirror ran a headline in the front-page sidebar, although to its credit, the paper also provided a more measured analysis in its lead editorial, concluding that the figure is essentially meaningless.

2. "Li Xiang to divorce after abuse" - The TV personality had her wedding heavily covered in the press earlier this year. Based entirely on the BBS comments of someone posting under the name "Zhu Qian" who claimed to have heard things over dinner from a colleague of Li Xiang's father, domestic media pulled out all the stops to spread the rumor. Li's financial situation was carefully disected. Her declarations of marital bliss were reanalyzed as merely an act for the TV cameras, with quotations from unnamed TV crew calling her a fake.

The Beijing News, which splashed the allegations on the cover of its Entertainment section, felt the need to justify reporting on BBS rumors:

It's not only common netizens who frequent that forum; entertainment reporters, celebrity managers, and even the stars themselves enter into it, so the forum often sees "behind the scenes" information...While many of those online were suspicious about the reliability of Zhu Qian's information, Zhu Qian's righteous defense of Li Xiang speaks to the reliability of the information, and there is nothing questionable about print media publishing the "hot news".
Well, other than the fact that it makes them look foolish. See Liu Yifei's age controversy for the last time they had an opportunity to learn that lesson.

China Daily Online reprints a Shenzhen Daily story [English]repeating the rumors; Beijing News report [Chinese, pictures]
Mirror: Poll results article and editorial [Chinese]

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