Shakeup at Beijing Daily Messenger

As a result of the "fake cardboard baozi" scandal, CCTV dismissed all of its freelance journalists, and punishments were liberally dealt out at Beijing TV. Is Beijing's print media getting a similar overhaul?

There are rumors that a number of Beijing's papers are being reined in and requested to adhere more closely to their stated charters; Beijing Daily Messenger (北京娱乐信报) turned into an entertainment paper overnight.

Media blogger aside (旁白) describes the situation:

There were rumors a few days ago that Beijing Daily Messenger would change from a metropolitan newspaper to a pure entertainment paper. Further rumors stated that The First would switch to purely sports, and even the Mirror would change to focus solely on the law. The first two of these rumors, particularly the first one, are most certain. Many BDM reporters have already confirmed this on their blogs; the majority of that paper's reporters will be let go.

There's news that this is the result of a purge of Beijing media following the "cardboard baozi fake news." Actually, these three papers are municipal media, and their reports and opinions can't be called excessive, particularly BDM, which in recent years has championed "goodwill reports" and seldom has negative news items - it's an "obedient" paper. After the "cardboard baozi fake news," the municipal media was reportedly requested to cease negative reporting, but it turned out that they were the ones that went under the knife.

Today's BDM is thin and completely bereft of anything resembling serious news. Compare today's front page, featuring Jackie Chan and Paris Hilton, with the headlines on yesterday's.

Aside2003 has screenshots showing changes to BDM's website - sections for domestic and international news that were present yesterday have utterly vanished.

A blog post by BDM journalist formerly with the paper's supplement but now a first-string reporter reveals the extent of the overhaul:

As a newspaper, BMD has long made the administrative and propaganda departments uncomfortable, so they took advantage of this opportunity to single it out for a restructuring.

"'Entertainment Messenger' [娱乐信报, the paper's Chinese name] - isn't it enough to do entertainment? Why do you want to do news?"

So, with reverence and awe, the agency began to reform itself in accordance with those directions, bringing down a knife that had been hanging for two years, directly on the heads of our comrades.

News department: axed
Headline news department: axed
Hotline news department: axed
Financial news department: axed
Editor-in-chief department: axed
Olympic reports department: axed
Supplement department: axed
Entertainment department: reduced
Sports department: reduced
Photography department: reduced
Design department: reduced

Forty-eight pages were reduced to thirty-six. No news, no current events - all entertainment and sports, plus four pages of life tips, a page of jokes, and a page of reader letters.

Two-hundred-fifty people in the agency, cut in one stroke to 100. Three people in the photography department.

There's news that this is not the final cut. Next year there'll be another stroke, cutting 36 pages to 26, and what's more, it won't be sold, but rather will be passed out for free in the subway.

A paper with a circulation of 200,000, a morning paper able to compete with The Beijing News and Beijing Times, just removes itself from competition like this. It won't get another chance.

What did baozi have to do with BDM? You can always find a charge if you want to condemn someone!

Marx teaches us that nonsense can be made up for anything in the world.

The blog of another BDM reporter suggests a different reason for the restructuring:

BDM for 31 July, 2007, has 40 pages total. According to the plan from the beginning of the year, this paper on a Tuesday should have around 56 standard pages. Previously, there were rumors that because of "baozi-gate," this paper would be reorganized into an entertainment-focused paper by the Beijing Municipal Party Committee Publicity Department. From now on, Beijing has one fewer metropolitan paper. Another analysis holds that this is just the first stroke from the Central Committee Publicity Department prior to "Big 17," the Olympics, and the 60th anniversary of the founding of the country.

The First (竞报) and Mirror (法制晚报) published as usual today. The most recent overhaul of a Beijing newspaper was Beijing Times' transition from a low-circulation, money-losing, yet respectable daily to a business weekly with a plagiarism problem.

Update: Commentary from Wang Xiaofeng.

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Comments on Shakeup at Beijing Daily Messenger


I don't know if it's related, but Southern Metropolis Daily has been awfully thin this past week as well. I picked up the paper one day, Monday I think, and there were about thirty book reviews in total spread throughout the issue.

We had a little bit of fake news excitement here in Guangzhou this past week as well, when Ferid Murad one of the so-called 'fathers of Viagra' was here to check out some hospitals and it was reported by 广州日报 that he had had a stroke in the middle of one lecture he was given. Then 南方日报 health beat journalist Zhang Shumei wrote on her blog that no he hadn't had a stroke, she had just run into the guy in the elevator at the hospital he had been taken to and asked him what was up, quoting him as saying that he was fine just tired and they had most likely just been trying to sell more copies. Ironically, Zhang herself was the one responsible for the 实习生 who earlier this month mistakenly quoted Ma Jun as saying that green algae a la Taihu or Dianchi had been spotted on the Pearl River (from the random decomposing corpses floating around, no doubt). Still haven't heard anything about apologies or corrective statements made in either of those two cases. I guess The Bloggers didn't get worked up enough to warrant any response either way.

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