Local News Bureaus in China – ESWN

From the EastSouthWestNorth blog (link):

A national-level newspaper is a media brand name in China. Most of the local news bureaus around the country are not directly controlled by the newspaper headquarters itself. Here is how things look (warning: this is an illustrative example, but it does not mean that all local news bureaus are operated in this manner):

So you would like to become a local news bureau chief? You make an advanced payment of 50,000 RMB as a deposit and then you bring in than 300,000 RMB in advertising sales per year. The job will be yours. They don’t care about your academic experience, or any past problems with law or discipline, or any experience in journalistic work. And they don’t care what you do as long as you bring the money in.

The newspaper will bear no responsibility with respect to office expenses, wages, travel expenses, welfare benefits or anything else. You are on your own. That means you are free to approach government departments or private companies. You can take payment for promising to write promotion puff pieces. You can also take payment for promising not to write acerbic negative criticisms for real or imaginary problems. And you don’t even have to keep those promises. Nobody cares what about you do until you get caught.

What would happen to McDonald’s if they ran their business this way? Conversely, the newspapers can learn a lot from the McDonald’s way.

From Boxun translated by ESWN:

The most fundamental reason why these legal activities were taking place at the local news bureaus at the newspapers is economic in nature. More precisely, some of the activities by the news bureau chief were “passive.” They were often forced to look for ways to survive. They must generate fixed levels of income for the newspaper, or else they must concede their news bureau to someone else next year.

During the present re-organization campaign for the news bureaus, the General Adminstration of Press and Publications has asked the newspapers to set up detailed regulations for administering their local news bureaus, with the following principles: the news bureau workers must satisfy the qualifications as stated in the relevant regulations from the General Adminstration of Press and Publications; the news bureau workers must also either be direct employees of the newspaper or else employees who have signed formal labor contracts with the newspaper; news bureau personnel files must be set up, and the personnel should be supervised under active management; internal reward/punishment systems should be established.

Could these measures solve the deep structural problems of the “problem of news bureaus”? Treating the symptom but not the disease does not address the nature of the problem. Perhaps the General Adminstration of Press and Publications only thinks that the news bureaus are outside departments of the national newspaper publishers. The news bureaus are tied closely with the local enterprise units and masses. So this whole thing concerns not just the local image of the newspaper publications, but also the image and trustworthiness of the Party and the Government as well as the interests of the people.

See also CDT’s “Chinese reporters arrested for extortion” (link); – ESWN’s “The Case of Yang Xiaoqing” (link)

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