Chinese authorities began blocking the site on Thursday night without giving any explanation. The Chinese government usually blocks access to Web sites that it deems to have sensitive information, including sites with information about Tibet, Taiwan and Falun Gong, the banned spiritual movement.
Government employees reached by telephone on Monday said they did not know why the site of The New York Times was blocked in recent days.
Adam Minter, of the China Scrap blog, has this to say about the recent blocking of the Times’ website:
… I can’t help but stand back and compare the relatively minor impact – on me, at least – of a NYT block in 2008, to the ones that regularly occured when I first moved here in 2002. Back then, I can recall being frustrated to the point of anger at regular blocks on the NYT, LAT, and the WP – they were my primary sources of China news. Knock them out, and my knowledge of China was much less. Flash forward to 2008, and I can tell you that I still read those papers (although, I think the WSJ’s China coverage is, by far, the best of the major American papers), but they are no longer my primary sources of China news. Instead, I start the day with a scan of danwei’s “from the web”, ESWN, China Environmental Law, and occasionally, Shanghaiist (all of which are reported – as opposed to – opinion blogs). And only then do I move to the traditional media, starting with the SCMP. In fact, at this point, I rarely look at the NYT’s coverage (compare Yardley’s 30 years piece to the SCMP’s much tougher month-long series) due to the fact that it rarely breaks anything that wasn’t on the blogs or in the Hong Kong papers, first. And I’m guessing that I’m not the only one – more and more I’ve noticed major Western papers, and the AP and Reuters, in particular, picking up stories that – in some form – were originally broken on English-language China blogs (ie, the Fallows blog scooped the NYT on news related to their website!). I guess, in a sense, this is no different than what’s happening with political blogs in the US, though the China blogs are a bit different in that they’re often written by people with a specific kind of expertise, and typically involve more reporting than opinionating.
Commenting on Minter’s post, blogger and media analyst Rebecca MacKinnon, points out the important role blogs play in disseminating news about China to large media outlets like The New York Times (the links included are MacKinnon’s):
Great observations. Roland Soong of ESWN recently wrote about foreign media’s growing irrelevance. Back in 2006 I did a study of how blogs were impacting foreign media coverage of China. It would be interesting to re-do the survey today. Here’s the academic paper I wrote from the study, free draft here(PDF). (Thanks to the slow gears of academic publishing, the thing didn’t get published till this year.)