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Behind the scenes at Southern Weekly

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Backstage is a look behind the scenes at Southern Weekly. This book, which came out at the beginning of the year, promotes itself a textbook of case-studies in Chinese journalism and a demystification of the news operations at a major paper (excerpts here).

The articles in the book are of two forms. So-called case studies are basically reporters' personal narratives and reflections, like somewhat longer versions of the "reporter's notes" that accompany SW feature articles. We learn how reporters prepared for major interviews, how they elicited such detailed information for their reports, and how they dealt with controversy. These pieces are accompanied by the original SW articles, which date from late 2005 to late 2006.

Other pieces reflect in more general terms on the practice of journalism - ethics, brushes with celebrity, the elements of an interesting story, the "seven rules for interacting with officials," and so forth. There's a dialogue between a culture reporter and a correspondent over anonymous sources that's particularly interesting.

The last section part of the book is given over to a fascinating seventeen-part conversation about balanced reporting: editors and reporters argue about how to convey authentic information while protecting individuals, and how to provide a factual framework within a captivating narrative.

The discussion surrounds the fallout from Fu Jianfeng's 2006 piece about a school-teacher who worked as a prostitute on the weekends to make enough money for her family. The report was assailed by some observers as being slipshod, if not fabricated, after which Fu and his colleagues engaged in a spirited exchange on the paper's internal network. Fu's initial self-defense appeared on his blog (translated here by ESWN), but that did not close the issue; Backstage excerpts the highlights of the subsequent discussion for about 15,000 characters worth of back-and-forth over journalistic principles.

Some of the selections appeared in last year's Nanfang Media Research series, but the title Backstage and the famous Southern Weekly brand might make this series (this is volume one) a bit more eye-catching to readers.

In a piece discussing the Li Datong interview in 2005, Shi Yan comments that Li's The Story of Freezing Point might not appeal so much to China Youth Daily insiders who had already heard Li tell his stories over and over. Backstage might be a similar in its appeal to Chinese journalists - but for those of us peering in at Chinese media from the outside, it a worthwhile read.

There are currently 1 Comments for Behind the scenes at Southern Weekly.

Comments on Behind the scenes at Southern Weekly

Very interesting. The general manager of I believe it was Nanfang Ribao just released an autobiography of sorts this past month. Southern group can't be upstaged by LDT, of course.

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