China Journo Day: Spoofs And Surveys

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First, a little belated comic relief to mark China Journalists’ Day (Nov. 8). On the BBS Journalists’ Home, one blogging hack had some fun with ten old propaganda affiches, inventing new captions. “Don’t step on the high-tension wire!” reads the caption appended to the one pictured at right. “Ten Lessons on Journalists’ Day,” the post was titled. Here’s the whole spread with the new captions (click).

On a more serious note, meanwhile, China Times (Âçé§èÊó∂Êä•) has been polling people’s attitudes toward the news trade in China. Sina.com is hosting the open survey and many news outlets nationwide have posted it on their Web pages. The poll consists of two sets of questions, one meant for Chinese journalists, the other for non-journalists.

Results collected so far indicate that reporters and their readers hold similar views on the state of Chinese journalism: Both are quite cynical. Job satisfaction levels appear low among journalists, and media credibility is low among non-journalists. Both sets perceive a big discrepancy between their high-minded ideal of reporters and the more disturbing realities in a country where, according to a Xinhua report this week, journalism is officially deemed the third most dangerous occupation (behind miners and policemen).

In reply to similar questions about what makes a good journalist, respondents overwhelmingly cast their model newshound as an activist: independent, outspoken and having a strong “sense of social responsibility”. At the same time, both journalists and non-journalists showed a degree of contempt for the job reporters currently do. The majority of non-journalists had no desire to be reporter. In their minds, over 40 percent of them said, their image of journalists was of “paparazzi, a very silly group of people”. Asked why they had picked the job, the top response among journalists was that they “accidentally” fell into it. Asked whether they liked it, nearly half said they were doing it just to “make a living”.

The survey also suggested why they felt this way. Questioned about the biggest downside of the job, about three-fourths of journalists cited mental pressures and anxieties, or the tendency to burn out at a young age. Over half said the pressure was “very great”. The survey also asked reporters whether they ever had been beaten or threatened while in pursuit of a story. More than a quarter said they had. More than four out of ten said that while they hadn’t, reporters they work with had.

Among nine star reporters nominated, Bob Woodward was picked the most ‘niu’ (amazing) in both polls. Chen Feng and Wang Lei, who broke the story of Sun Zhigang in Southern Metropolis Daily in 2003, came in second among their peers and third among others.

For the record, Chen, now a top news editor at Sohu.com, did not know of the survey and was expressed doubt when told how many admirers he had. “Are there really?” he replied.

To read the full text of the surveys in Chinese, click here.

Read on for an English translation of the bulk of the survey results, as of noon Beijing time on Nov. 10.


QUESTIONS FOR NON-JOURNALISTS [based on 2,472 respondents]

What basic qualification do you think a journalist needs most?
1. Must be brave, have a sense of social responsibility, dare to expose scandal, be able dig up in-depth news stories. 40.9%
2. Must write the truth, speak the truth, and have basic professional track record 34.0
3. Morally cultivated character, won’t report anything for money 24.3
4. Ability to dig up celebrity gossip 0.6

Do you trust today’s reporters and media?
1. Most are credible, even though there are a handful who write false stories 48.6%
2. Journalists know only hype, most are not credible 41.4
3. Don’t trust them at all 8.1
4. Trust them very much. If you can’t trust a reporter, who can you trust? 1.7

In your mind’s eye, what image do you have of journalists?
1. Paparazzi, a very silly group of people 41.8%
2. Uncrowned kings, people with a lot of connections 30.2
3. People who speak for the common folk 24.0
4. All-knowing, people with a lot of learning 3.9

Have you come in contact with journalists? How do you feel about them?
1. Never. Nor they have a reason to seek me out 29.1%
2. Seldom. I feel they’re the kind who just ask for trouble. 27.9
3. Often. I feel they’re the kind who just ask for trouble. 15.1
4. Often. I feel they’re not too bad. 14.9
5. Seldom. I feel they’re not too bad. 12.7

In your mind, which journalist among those listed below is most niu (amazing, cool)
1. Bob Woodward, who uncovered the Watergate affair 24.2%
2. Ernie Pyle, who was embedded with the army during WW2 and ended up dying on the battlefield 18.7
3. Chen Feng, Wang Lei [of Southern Metropolis Daily], who reported the Sun Zhigang case 15.4
4. Chai Jing [of CCTV], the first to enter a SARS hospital ward, today still with News Probe (新闻调查) 12.0
5. Lu Qiu Lu Wei [of Phoenix TV]. Wherever the news is, she’s there. 9.8
6. Tang Shizeng [of Xinhua], who covered the Persian Gulf War, a greater writer and photographer 8.2
7. Legendary Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who talked with Kissinger, Deng Xiaoping 5.8
8. Lu Yi [of Phoenix TV] who turned broadcast news into talk news and now reports from sea and sky 2.9
9. Founder of [pioneering early 20th c. newspaper] Jing Bao, Shao Piaoping 2.6

QUESTIONS FOR JOURNALISTS [total # respondents not noted]

Why did you choose journalism?
1. Accidentally stumbled into it, without knowing what I wanted to do 35.4%
2. Being a journalist has always been my dream, so I always worked hard toward it 30.3
3. It was my major in school, it suits me 21.8
4. Couldn’t find another job, so I became a reporter 13.3

What’s the biggest advantage of being a journalist?
1. Can come in contact with different groups of people, toughens you up 54.4%
2. No nine-to-five grind, rather free 23.1
3. Can grasp the right to speak my mind, take the initiative 13.1
4. Make money, rather high social status 9.1

Do feel pressures of the job are great?
1. Very great 55.5%
2. Average 36.1
3. No pressure, quite relaxed 8.2

As a reporter, have you or your immediate colleagues ever been beaten or threatened while covering a story?
1. No, neither me or nor my colleagues have, but I often hear of others being beaten 29.7%
2. Yes, I myself have been a victim 27.6
3. I myself haven’t, but colleagues have been beaten 23.6
4. I myself haven’t, but colleagues have been threatened 18.9

What kind of support you feel you need most?
1. Government should strengthen legislation to protect our rights and interests 45.1%
2. Increase our pay and other material support 37.4
3. Receive the understanding and support of ordinary people 17.4

Overall, do you like this profession at present?
1. Just making a living, not a question of like or dislike 48.2%
2. Like it. This is my ideal occupation. 35.7
3. Don’t like it. Not the glamorous life of “uncrowned kings” as outsiders see us. 8.1
4. Tired of it long ago, wish I could switch jobs right away. 7.8

In your mind, what should a true journalist be like?
1. Journalists should possess the power of insight and have ideas, and be able to use their pens to impact society and other people, and not just be mouthpieces. 57.9%
2. News is a career. Journalists must have a strong sense of social responsibility and stick to their convictions. 25.1 3. Journalists must respect the facts. The most praiseworthy journalist speaks the truth and doesn’t take “red envelopes”. 11.8
4. To be a really niu bi (amazing, cool) war correspondent. That’s my ideal 5.0

In your mind, which journalist among the following is the most niu (amazing)?
1. Bob Woodward, who uncovered the Watergate affair 28.9%
2. Chen Feng and Wang Lei, who reported the Sun Zhigang case in Southern Metropolis Daily 17.9
3. Legendary Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, who talked with Kissinger, Deng Xiaoping 12.1
4. Ernie Pyle, who was embedded with the army during WW2 and ended up dying on the battlefield 11.0
5. Lu Qiu Lu Wei [of Phoenix TV], who went into Afghanistan to cover the war 7.8
6. Chai Jing [of CCTV], the first to enter a SARS hospital ward, still with News Probe (新闻调查) 7.7
7. The founder of [pioneering early 20th c. newspaper] Jing Bao, Shao Piaoping 7.1
8. Tang Shizeng [of Xinhua], who covered the Persian Gulf War, a greater writer and photographer 4.0
9. Lu Yi [of Phoenix TV] who turned broadcast news into talk news and now reports from sea and sky 3.0

November 10, 2006, 3:26 AM