In a lecture he gave to a group of journalism students two weeks ago, a top official at Xinhua, the state news agency, said that the mission was not so picture perfect. The official, Xia Lin, described how a design flaw had exposed the astronaut to excessive G-force pressure during re-entry, splitting his lip and drenching his face in blood. Startled but undaunted by Mr. Yang’s appearance, the workers quickly mopped up the blood, strapped him back in his seat and shut the door. Then, with the cameras rolling, the cabin door swung open again, revealing an unblemished moment of triumph for all the world to see.
The content of Mr. Xia’s speech, transcribed and posted online by someone who attended the May 15 lecture at Tianjin Foreign Studies University, has become something of a sensation in recent days, providing the Chinese a rare insight into how their news is stage-managed for mass consumption.
Titled “Understanding Journalistic Protocols for Covering Breaking News,” the speech was intended to help budding journalists understand Xinhua’s dual mission: to give Chinese leaders a fast and accurate picture of current events and to deftly manipulate that picture for the public to ensure social harmony, and by extension, the Communist Party’s hold on power.
…Xiao Qiang, an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who often lays bare details of elements of Beijing’s propaganda machine on the Web site China Digital Times, said the seeming frankness of Mr. Xia’s words reflected how unapologetic Xinhua was in its mission and its methods.
“He’s basically telling these students that journalism in China is a big show, it’s fabricated, but in the end it’s all justified for the higher purpose of stability,” Mr. Xiao said.