Magazines

Many wish good luck to Hu Shuli's new magazine Century Weekly

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New Century Weekly
December 11, 2009
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New Century Weekly
December 21, 2009
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New Century Weekly
January 1, 2010


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Century Weekly
January 4, 2010. Image: Source

Hu Shuli, China's "most formidable editor," in charge of Caijing until late last year, took over New Century Weekly (新世纪周刊) and published her first issue under the banner Caixin Media (财新传媒) on January 4, 2009. The magazine, as previously, is published by Hainan Reform and Development Research Institution (海南发改研究院) joint with TeamWork (北京天意华鼎元广告公司), an advertising company, but the masthead in the new magazine reflects Hu Shuli's Caijing team, down to the journalists and the managing editors.

As soon as the news leaked that Hu Shuli was going to edit New Century Weekly (which under the previous Caijing editor is now renamed Century Weekly, but still keeping its Chinese title) there were accusations that she had not fulfilled her duties to Sun Yat-sen University, where she was rumored to take over its journalism department in November 2009, soon after her departure from Caijing magazine.

Outrage also followed when 21 old employees of New Century Weekly reportedly applied for labor arbitration after rumors that the old team would be laid off and replaced by Hu's team. On the New Century Weekly Sina blog, a final-sounding post was uploaded on January 6:

To all readers, colleagues and friends who have shown concern in light of the recent situation:

The 21 of us express deep thanks! Today we reached a solution with New Century Weekly, the 21 of us will try our hand at news again... Our colleagues in the editorial department will help the new colleagues all they can, in order to finish freelance payments. We trust that New Century Weekly is a responsible magazine. Thanks for the hard work you have done for us, giving us many ideas [as to what to do]. We have separated, but we are still together.

We also sincerely wish New Century Weekly the best of luck, hoping that it will have a limitless future, and we hope that our readers will keeping supporting this magazine, with 20 years of history. *

Reactions to the change of editorship came in the form of newspaper editorials as well as blog posts. Ten Years Chopping Timber (十年砍柴) is a reporter at Legal Daily: he wrote in an Southern Metropolis Daily editorial to comment on the move and gave the conclusion that no-one should blame Hu Shuli. An ex-deputy editor of New Century Weekly, Wen Zhang (文章), also blogged about his reaction to the takeover: it satisfied him, he wrote. Both posts are translated below.

Century Weekly (新世纪周刊) under Hu Shuli's Caixin Media's is now published online in English. As well as this publication, though, Hu also posts a Weekly English Digest in PDF form on her Sun Yat-sen University website.

New Century Weekly's ordeal over personnel -
what's it to do with Hu Shuli?

by Ten Years Chopping Timber / SMD

A few months after Hu Shuli and her team left Caijing, almost the entire team has entered New Century Weekly. I am persistent in thinking that Hu leaving Caijing should not be made more tragic than it really is. Having Hu edit Caijing should be seen as a miracle in today's China, having this miracle live for so long, perhaps Hu Shuli, her team and even her readers are still not resigned to it, but it still survived longer than expected.

After Hu Shuli and her team took over New Century Weekly they stirred up some problems surrounding the labor rights of previous employees at the magazine. I don’t know what kinds of exchanges or games that the publisher of New Century Weekly had with Hu Shuli, or those that took place with previous employees, but from the information that we can gather now, you can use this term to judge Hu Shuli for taking control of New Century Weekly in such a hurry: “Using the Spring and Autumn Annals to blame the wise men” *, causing previous employees to be laid off - in the end, judging someone else’s morals is easy for anyone to do. But some people have said, “Having this happen is really shocking to everyone, it’s totally against a contract of the minds. There has also been no legitimate procedure.” Faced with this kind of judgment I can’t agree without any other consideration: Hu Shuli not only needn’t be responsible for the labor rights of the prior employees, I think that in terms of morality and justice, we should also not be demanding in terms of what Hu Shuli has done.

The labor contract was signed by the publisher of New Century Weekly and the previous employee; it wasn’t with the new manager Hu Shuli. Therefore, the dispute exists between the previous employees and the publisher of New Century Weekly, Hu Shuli is the third party who has no relationship as such with them. For example, if an association of home-owners in a residential complex employed a new manager for the complex, and asked them to quickly move into the complex, but the contract with the last manager has still not ended, then the old manager can only try and advocate their rights with the association of home-owners rather than the new manager.

From what information is available now, I can’t deduct whether the prior employees of New Century Weekly have lost their jobs or whether they have been laid off - the two are different. Some people think that according to the labor law, the announcement and reasoning behind being laid off need to be announced a month before, before the contract has ended. So the journalists and editors are still employees of New Century Weekly. This kind of reasoning isn’t wrong, but, being employees of New Century Weekly doesn’t mean that journalists and editors' names have to appear on the masthead of the first issue of the magazine. The publisher has the right to make adjustments to jobs. The investors of News Weekly can ask the old employees to leave their jobs as editors and journalists, but keep their status as employees, and give them the wages that they are entitled to. If they did this, although it’s not kind, it won't be illegal either. Of course, the ideal situation would be if Hu Shuli would help the investors to appropriately solve the problems with the contract with the old employees. But this isn’t Hu Shuli’s legal responsibility and it isn’t her moral responsibility, either. No doubt there will be people who will point their fingers at Hu Shuli for indirectly causing harm to the rights of another group of news people. If they talk about a responsibility of justice and morality, Hu Shuli does have more moral responsibility towards her Caijing editors and journalists and the management team. Based on their trust of Hu Shuli and their ideals about the news they have followed Hu Shuli “out of Egypt,” of course Hu Shuli has a responsibility to grant a platform for news as soon as possible, and to make sure that their rights will be harmed as little as possible, maintaining the stability of the team, and ensure that they can occupy somewhere as quickly as possible. This is a must. If we are talking about a moral responsibility, of course a difference has to be made between those close and those who are not, the attention paid towards the lives of people who is close is more than to those they don’t know.

In the end, Hu Shuli’s incursion into New Century Weekly has not concluded in an ending satisfactory to both the old and the new employees. In the final analysis, there isn’t a stable sort of media professionals’ community in China. Each person is trying to find their feet in the news circle, and there lies a big gap between different medias and different media people’s value systems, industry ethics and professional cultivation. This is the cause behind the high value placed on certain media and media leaders’ irreplaceable qualities, for example, Hunan Satellite TV, the team that Ms. Hu Shuli has led etc. It's as if they're not in the same league as the media leaders and news teams on official papers (机关报), industry papers who don’t want to cause trouble with those above them. Their glory is refracted on all the widespread mediocrity in the media landscape. Because of this, for a media leader such as Hu Shuli, the first factor that she needs for her to finish something significant is to protect her team’s physique, and that their concentration isn’t broken. She can’t be like a normal manager who can easily compile a new team at a human resources fair.

As for Hu Shuli’s team taking over New Century Weekly, people in the industry widely believe that she is sticking to her journalism ideals. Keeping up a good run is not a problem: concern is on the ability to resist the risks that are not from the market. But in the world no-one has a metal body, as long as someone holds fast, it’s worthy of encouragement and joy. Humans have to die, and we can’t refuse to live fast because we’ll eventually die. It’s hard to predict the future; therefore, let’s take good care of the present.

Good luck to Hu Shuli and her team.


Thinking back to New Century Weekly

by Zhang Wen (章文) / my1510

The ordeal over New Century Weekly is getting more and more intense, and the older employees have already applied for labor arbitration. From what I can see, Hu Shuli should immediately take action to reach a compromise with China (Hainan) Reform and Development Research Institution and TeamWork advertising company, so that a suitable solution can be reached. Otherwise the ordeal will harm Hu Shuli herself and harm the public's trust in her team.

This ordeal has also made me think of what happened five years ago, which I want to sigh about.

In 2004 New Century Weekly was moved to Beijing from Hainan, changing its format from airline travel magazine to comprehensive current affairs magazine, and I was one of the people in charge. At the time I was the deputy editor in charge of content. After a few short months I completed with the editor the positioning of magazine content, the settings for the columns, and the recruitment of employees. We also made a few trial issues.

Thinking about it now, those times were a hectic but productive period. At the time I wasn't yet married, so my time and energy were basically put into this "newborn;" many weekends were spent in the office working overtime. I was filled with my ambitions and passion, hoping that an excellent news magazine would be borne out of my hands, one that can rival Window of the South (南风窗) and China Newsweek (中国新闻周刊), and even surpassing these magazines.

After a few trial issues, the industry signaled that its trend would be positive. After the magazine was officially published, an old friend called me excitedly: "Your magazine is no different from a news magazine." After hearing this, I was filled with confidence and optimism. At the time New Century Weekly was on the low-end, every issue was 32 pages, at 2.5 yuan. You could say that its price was one of its advantages as well.

The good times would not last long. Before the official launch of the magazine, the main editor and the boss (from TeamWork advertising company) got into a dispute, resulting in the sacking of the editor. The boss promoted the director of the editorial department to standing deputy editor, responsible for content. This was a very strange decision. I didn't understand it, and felt that it was unfair. From changing its format to official publishing, I almost put in everything I had to give. What confused the majority of the editors and journalists was that the director of the editorial department was the ex-editor-in-chief of a no-name IT magazine who came here to manage the flow of work - how could he manage the contents of a current affairs magazine?

Due to the editor' bad decision-making in terms of personnel, our relationship became very disharmonious, and we had endless conflicts. In reality I can't blame him. Even he admitted himself that he doesn't have the knack for a current affairs magazine, but his position and his sense of dignity as a young person, made him adamant in showing that he was capable. And at the time I also had youthful vigor, in the face of a leader who was weaker that I was but liked to show off, I was completely unwilling to back down.

Therefore, from recruiting employees to deciding on a topic, we had many disputes. I felt deeply the absurdity of the situation, and found numerous occasions to chat with my editor, hoping that he would find an awesome person to be the editor, and I would do my best to compliment him. If they couldn't find anyone so quickly then I would split our work and not bother the other, but the main boss would be in charge of both our work.

But what disappointed me was, the editor, who was just as young, didn't give his opinion and let the situation worsen. In the end, I chose to leave. What was interesting was that almost every editor and journalist quit too. This was the first time that a big change that shouldn't have happened to a newly born magazine, happened.

The next few months were very painful, whether for me or for New Century Weekly, it was very hard. Seeing the demise of this newborn with plenty of spirit and seeing the end of the spirit of journalism.

Until one day when someone close to the boss told me that the boss thought that I would be going down the same road as the ex-editor, and he worried about me. After hearing this, I understood much more. The ex-editor used to manage another media outlet under the boss, and has collaborated for many years with the boss, it was because of this trust that he became editor-in-chief of New Century Weekly. In my opinion, he really wanted the magazine to succeed, it was because of this that we tried hard and published a magazine in such a short time. Why didn't he trust someone like this?

Later on, New Century Weekly changed its editor ever year, and the style of the magazine was never finalized. I calmed down a long time ago, with my knowledge of the Chinese media entering a new phase. In current times in China, it's hard to sustain a media that didn't have a government background and resources (especially current affairs), let alone have it be successful. This is a cruel reality, and we can complain, but it's hard to reject. The reason that magazines such as China Newsweek and Oriental Outlook have gone far is because their management is closely associated with China News and Xinhua. Without the protection of a big tree, one report can finish a media outlet.

The trend is future is even more obvious. SARFT has already announced its plan to renovate Chinese media in order to fight for the rights of speech with Western media. No matter whether they can fulfill their wishes, the next step for the Chinese media world is to "sacrifice the weak for the strong." It will be winter for media that is managed by the people.

So, when I heard that Hu Shuli's team had entered New Century Weekly, I felt quite satisfied, after all it was a place where I had put in my effort and a magazine where I had instilled my ideals, whether it is on a public or on a personal level, I hope that it will soar. Still, I have my doubts, leaving the protection of co-management, can Hu Shuli still be the old Hu Shuli? The Reform and Development Research Institution is only an organization of the people, its influence and ability to protect is far smaller than the many high-level officials in Beijing and other commissions, who all have all sorts of different relationships.

Of course, Hu Shuli herself already has contacts at very high levels, this will of course help her take-over of New Century Weekly. But in current times, Hu Shuli should take care of the leaving or staying issue of the old employees. A famous media person who advocates conscience and justice should make sure her actions are the same as her words. Otherwise it will leave a very bad impression in the industry and on the public.

During this bitingly cold winter, I want to give my best wishes to the old colleagues at New Century Weekly, and also give my best wishes to the new Hu Shuli team at New Century Weekly! We all have ideals, and no-one has it easy! I hope they will reach a solution!


Notes

  1. Although the letter wrote that New Century Weekly had 20 years of history, Wen Zhang, its ex-deputy editor, said that the magazine only transformed from an airline magazine into a current affairs magazine in 2004.
  2. “Using the Spring and Autumn Annals to blame the wise men” (春秋责备贤者) is a reference implying that the ways of the Annals will make the person reading it tougher.
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