• 2005-02-22

    Journal Entry, Is journalism still important today


      By Gang Wu, for Jour 607 Journalistic Writing, November 29, 2004
       If you ask me if journalism is still important today, my answer will be a definite YES.
       The question of the continuity of journalism reflects the worries among some people that journalism is on the decline, and that irresponsible reports are on the increase, and the news coverage is in danger of degrading into sheer entertainment. Those worries are not groundless. Not only in the United States, but also in China, we see the growth of entertaining news reports, let alone endless chase after trivial stuff of movie stars or singers.
       But journalism is not dying. In the developing country of China, for example, news stories that showed the courage and dignity of journalists are mushrooming as fast as the entertaining or tabloid news. When explosions involving huge casualties occurred one after another in the state or private-run coalmines, the journalists dig out the facts and possible illegal practice of the coalmine owners despite their blockage of information or even threatening over their personal safety. When migrant workers’ children have no school to attend due to the discriminating old schooling system in cities, journalists launched large scale of coverage to call for reform. When a painter was beaten to death by police for failing to provide an ID card, the media brought about a nationwide rage against the injustice, which eventually led to the end of a law concerning the treatment of homeless people. (<strong>Teacher's note: This is very interesting; I had no idea this has been going on.</strong>)
       Not all news stories changed the injustice or social evils. But the coverage of the social problems shows the stance of the journalists and tells the powerless they are not alone. Also, more ordinary people are encouraged to be concerned about society, to voice their opinions and even participate in some social affairs when time comes.
       It is true that soon after China began economic reform in 1980s and the State-owned media had to make their own living through advertisement revenues, many journalists joined the tide and traded their journalistic integrity for money. There was a time when most reporters were encouraged by their bosses to find advertisement clients whenever possible, including when interview people for news. It is still a common practice in China that for every press conference held by a company or organization, or even some governmental institutions, the organizers will give each reporter invited some money as “transportation allowances.” Some reporters, known as press conference bugs, are making their living not by writing news, but frequenting the profitable press conferences everyday between various hotels and conference centers.
       Fortunately, more and more newspapers are separating their reporters from the advertisement business. (<strong>Teacher's note: this is a good trend.</strong>) Some publications generously pay their reporters transportation and communication costs, while forbidding them to accept money from any sources. The editors are less tolerant of running stories that are disguised as news but actually ads. This has made reporters to refrain from taking money from the sources, because the stories might no be able to run.
       The world is not like some people see as becoming more and more out of order. It is just becoming more and more diversified. When a number of tabloid-style newspapers sprung up, a number of responsible newspapers are also growing up and winning respect from society. The readership is also a diversified setup of various interests. Some people may like things others consider vulgar. That is human nature.
    <strong>Teacher's Note:
    Gang, It's interesting what you've written. I had no idea that journalism in your country is so vibrant - in many ways, it's exceeding what we're doing here in this country. I'm heartened to hear that journalism has such a brigh future in China. This is REALLY good news.</strong></TD>