The Google/China Hacking Case: How Did the Story Flow Through Chinese-language Media?

Last month, a report from Nieman Labs tracked English-language reporting of the Google hacking story and found that of the many media reports, only very few contained any original reporting. Now, Nieman Labs has done the same research process to track Chinese-language media reporting of the same story, which found that an even smaller percentage contained original reporting:

There were 151 items on the topic in the Google News story cluster when I gathered them. I went through each, tracking the original source of the copy and the source of the information, among other things, and gathered the results in an spreadsheet. These are the major findings:

There were only six distinct written stories. Four newspapers, a website, and a wire service offered distinct versions of the story of tracing Google’s recent attackers to two schools in China. These media were, in the order that Google News ranked them, Elite Reference (Beijing), China Times (Beijing), China News Service (nationwide), Dazhong Web (Shandong), Qilu Evening News (Shandong), and Information Times (Guangzhou). These six stories were widely reposted by both commercial websites and local newspaper websites. The story from the China News Service was reposted 68 times, while the least repeated story was reposted seven times.

Four of these six stories were based on significant original reporting: China Times, China News Service, Dazhong Web, and Qilu Evening News. The other two stories (from Elite reference and Information Times) rearranged the facts from other media, adding a few comments from news conferences or netizens.

Out of the 151 web pages, 76 (50 percent) were the online outlets of traditional media. Among them, 56 (37 percent) were primarily newspapers, while the others are the websites of TV or radio stations. Private companies or individuals are not permitted to run a newspaper or broadcasting station independent of government oversight in China, so these figures mean that half of the websites following the Google hacking news are effectively state-run media.

Xinhua, the primary state-run Chinese news agency, did not contribute any stories in Chinese, but offered a report in English.


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