Falling down on the job

Beijing Today's ingenuity, Danwei's shame.
A confession: we haven't been playing fair.

This realization was brought on by the latest issue of Beijing Today, an English-language tabloid put out by the Beijing Youth Daily Group.

It's like this: one of Danwei's favorite type of post follows the "issue + reaction" rubric: we pull an item from the news and then follow it with commentary from columnists, bloggers, and forum posters. Formulaic, yes, but nothing that lots of other sites don't do, too.

So naturally we don't much mind when the Chinese media does the same thing. Take Beijing Today, for example - it runs its Debates section in precisely this manner (image at left).

Problem is, we haven't been giving them much to work with. The article excerpted in BT, Dealing with cultural garbage, didn't generate much of a response. Without the critical "reaction" section of the formula, what is an editor to do?

BT did the only thing it could: it took bits and pieces of op-eds by Xie Fuming, Xu Guangmu, and Luo Tianzhu (all translated in the Danwei post) attributed them to various invented names: "Mutt Hu", "Betsy Ross", "Dynahog". Large-scale copying and renaming is a staple of start-up forums who need to pretend that discussion is hopping (see this for examples), but for BT, it's more than that: they are trying to do "man-on-the-street" interviews when everyone's out of town.

There is some small comfort in the fact that Danwei's situation is not as bad as some other China blogs. ESWN, for example, is so deviod of useful information that BT was forced to credit it with a Xinhua report on sex ed, and since ESWN doesn't allow comments, reader reactions were poached from Times Online.

Nevertheless, discussion on Danwei is still pretty far removed from the the breadth of commentary on, say, Granite Studio, whose comments section was attached to a bricolage of GS, Danwei, and state media reports on the Christmas debate. Though in another issue, a Granite Studio article was credited to Global Voices Online, and the comments were attributed to "Glenn" (actually GS, with "Mothers are always great!" tacked on), CLB (also GS), "Homer" (GS again), "Bailey Squier" (yep), "ShadowWalker" (...), and Lao Lu (a genuine quotation!).

We have a serious problem here. And when I say "we," I mean "you," the Danwei reader. Shared information is the order of the day, but you haven't been holding up your end. Web 2.0 is interactive, give-and-take; there's been a lot of taking going on, and it's time to give back. Beijing Today and all of the other windows on China can't invent good journalist practices ex nihilo, and you have it in your power to provide them with the raw materials.

So step to it. We want to see a full spectrum of viewpoints represented: boosterism, paranoia, guarded optimism, hand-wringing, and crackpot lunacy - die-hard reds and rabid anti-commies both. Surely this isn't too much to ask: the future of English-language Chinese media is in your hands.

There are currently 6 Comments for Falling down on the job.

Comments on Falling down on the job

What? You want us to do your work?

On behalf of the nameless smart mob masses, I apologize and offer to take my own life to erase this shame.

I for one applaud this latest move. Clearly, you the editors, recognize the value in the opinions expressed by many of us (except for Imagethief and Sinosceptic) on these pages. Hopefully your efforts will be rewarded by a multitude of opinions.

Can I provide the anti-commie lunacy? and tell those lazy commie bastards journalists to do their own work!

The comments section is hilarious though. The names are Onion-esk.

Ok, here goes:

This is exactly the power of the internet that all you English-language-media-in-the-People's-Republic-of-China flaks have been incessantly cooing over like a coven of underfunded stem-cell researchers surrounding a malformed embryo. Isn't it the holy grail of your otherwise heathen - and demonstrably unwashed - existence? I could insert a paragraph break here but that would ruin the flow. Do you or do you not concede that it is in fact your reporting on the use of your material by Beijing Today which in fact garners them a larger audience? If that isn't collusion, my name isn't Betsy Ross - haha! And you thought even George C Scott couldn't catch you with your pants down! Do you seriously believe we won't find the files you keep downloading to my computer?! Just one is enough to put your laowai asses away for the duration of those pathetic Z visas you insist on lording over the rest of your miserable ilk! Who'd you pay off to get those, might I ask? Or I might not - it depends on my mood. Anyway, where was I... oh yes, ilk! I do hope the intrepid staff of Beijing Today doesn't do anything rash like picket Danwei's opulent offices. Better find somewhere else to hoard all your ill-gotten gains before it's too late, you media reprobates!

Publish that, Beijing Today!

I had the unfortunate experience of working at Beijing Today and I can tell you it's worse than you can imagine. 80%, no 90% of the stories are direct translations from Chinese media or lifted straight from foreign press, blogs and comments pages. They even steal people's online holiday snaps for the travel sections. Whenever I tried to point out that this wasn't exactly journalism at its best (which I did on a daily basis), my comments were met with puzzled expressions and I was politely told to sod off. The editor actively encourages her reporters to pocket cash for stories and to top it off, the editor in chief can't speak a word of English - and he runs an English language paper!

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