As the media industry becomes more mature and open, more different media channels have appeared in the community. In recent years, we have a wider variety of print magazines and pay-TV channels to choose from. Currently, I-cable is even trying to gain the free TV license in order to penetrate the domestic market. Having more choices is undoubtedly beneficial to audiences, the industry and the whole market. However, the expanding media industry does not guarantee a better quality offered by the media. The professionalism of different media organizations therefore becomes a controversial issue nowadays.
Next Media is one of the largest listed media companies in Hong Kong. It owns one newspaper, Apple Daily, and several print and online magazines. Its magazine, Next Magazine, is one of the most popular local glossy magazines. This magazine is well known of its aggressive and flamboyant reporting style. Next Magazine is a typical example of using exaggerated and even fake cover stories to maximize its readership. Because of the commonly used fictional and immoral reporting styles, publications under this company are always criticized for its unprofessional conduct.
Fictional reports represent that reporters attempt to write an entire story just according to a partial fact. Sometimes, reporters’ personal comments or imagination of an issue will be added into the story. The worst case appears when the contents of the whole story is counterfeit and without any evidence. This kind of unprofessional reports is always carried out by reporters and editors of the Next Magazine. Shocking cover stories about the celebrities can always attract readers. Yet, those rumors are always accused of the content inaccuracy by the protagonists of stories. Some celebrities even take legal actions to defend and clarify themselves. In February 2010, an artist named Law Ka Leung and his former wife respectively declared that the cover story of the Next Magazine about their life after divorce was not true. That cover story described Mr. Leung as an irresponsible father and discredited his image by depicting his poor treats to his ex-wife and son. However, this was not the real case but made up by the unprofessional reporters. Mr. Leung blamed that the irresponsible report has seriously damaged his image so that he would keep the rights to sue the magazine.
In addition, some media even unethically make up an entire story of some well-known public figures. In many cases, such reporting would offense the privacy of the people involved. For instance, the paparazzi always invade into celebrities’ apartments in order to look for some personal materials which may help create newsworthy articles. Not to mention letters, credit card and bill receipts, rubbish like empty bottles of skin care products can be collected as sources for reporters’ creative rumors. In April 2003, the famous singer, Leslie Cheung, committed suicide in a hotel. The paparazzi of the Next Media sneaked into his room and foraged his rubbish. Their behaviors were seriously criticized of disrespect to the subject singer.
In August 2006, the Next media again aroused another furor after publishing a cover story about a young female singer, Gillian Chong. The magazine, titled Easy Finder, was once a popular publication under the Next Media. There was a huge coverage in Easy Finder about Gillian Chong putting off her clothes in a changing room. Miss Chong’s naked photos were actually taken by the paparazzi using a hidden camera. Finally, the Easy Finder was accused by the local regulation of obscene and indecent articles ordinance. This incident not only infringed the privacy of the victim, but also the morality of society.
The unprofessional reports of the Next Media led the company into complaints and troublesome lawsuits. Its stories have also brought up heated controversy. Although its eye-catching stories can help bringing huge readerships, its credibility is very low. Its semi-fabricate stories are regarded as personalities instead of credible pieces of journalistic writing.
Nowadays, many media companies put sales into an upper priority over professionalism. Looking for claptrap information for the sake of raising the circulation becomes the most essential concern. Therefore, the bottom line of journalists’ professionalism nowadays becomes loosened. The problem turns into much more complicated when the media coverage was done not only immorally, but also illegally. In order to safeguard the profession and ethics of journalism, self-discipline is very important. The local government, in this circumstance, should perform as a watchdog to protect and balance the interests of the media industry and the general public. Meanwhile, the government should also beware of violating the press freedom. In short, objectively reporting the reality is the ultimate goal of being a journalist. Every practitioner in this industry should respect their identities and duties and behave as a professional.
Nowadays, everyone can write their own blog, post clips on YouTube and can be really a journalist paid by news agency. It seems that journalists will lose their job in the coming future. But one thing we need to focus is that being journalists, they have their rules to follow in order to be a professional journalist.
To be professional, journalists should report newsworthy story. So it can gain more attention from the public to know the true and help newspaper’s sales. Another thing is most important. It is objectivity. It is about whether the fact of the news is accurate or not. If not, news will become lies and it hidden the true. It loses the purpose of news. Besides, journalists should be disinterest towards news. That means they cannot involve personal feeling or opinion in news. Also, journalists should find different sources before issuing news report and make sure there isn’t bias on that. Those are the practices and rituals of new writing. Moreover, news should be timely and free from suppress of identities like authority.
However, there are some problems that hinder the profession of journalists. For example, CNN admitted that it had practiced self-censorship in covering the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq in order to ensure continued access after the regime had thrown out other media. CNN correspondent Christiane Amanpour also complained of self-censorship during the invasion of Iraq due to the fear of alienating key audiences in the US. There are claims that the media are also avoiding covering stories about repression and human rights violations by the Israeli and Iranian regimes in order to maintain a presence in those countries. (Wikipedia, 2010) So self censorship and selective reporting devastate the objectivity of journalists. On the other hand, recent years, there is a lot of advertorials posted in newspapers and magazine. Those materials are given by advertisers. Indeed, public may not know very well about those things are created by product company. If there is fraud of the advertorials, people may blame newspaper publishers they are being not professional at all.
In contrast, to be citizen journalists, they can report news with newsworthiness like Bus Uncle. But when it comes to the point of objectivity, I don’t think citizen journalists can finish this task. As citizens nowadays mainly are bloggers, they write blog to express their feeling, daily matters or comments about news. It involves personal feelings, bias and judgments in their blogs.
What’s more, citizen journalists don’t have huge capital, human resources, equipments and technology to report, record, transmit and edit news. So there is a gap for citizen journalists to be professional journalists. On top of that, professional journalists are hired by news agency. Their social roles are reporting news and following the code of conduct by the company. Also people will expect professional journalists reporting the true. It is the social norm for journalists. Nevertheless, citizen journalists are not bounded by that. So they are free from social norm and people will not expect much at them. Also, they are not hired by company. So they don’t need to follow the code of conduct.
All in all, I am doubt about citizen journalists can be professional journalists. However, there is a way for two parties to cooperate like citizen journalists can get the first hand information and give to journalists who are profession in reporting to report the news. Thus, they perform different functions. At the end, they are helping each other but not completing. I think no one can predict how journalism will be in the future. It lets time tell what will happen.
It’s hard to believe that the 21st century started a decade ago, but we vividly remember the chaos that accompanied the year 2000. The problem lay in the fact that with digital software, dates were often stored only as the last two digits of a year (in the MM/DD/YY format). With a change into the new century, it was possible that computers that stored important information, such as financial or security statements could confuse or lose data, or even stop working entirely.
Due to the panic, many companies responded by extensively updating and checking their software. Some experts contributed to the panic by making incendiary comments about Y2K. The Deputy Secretary of Defense of the United States at the time even went as far as to say “The Y2K problem is the electronic equivalent of the El Niño and there will be nasty surprises around the globe.” Others countered that the situation would not be as dire as rumors would have it, especially if the right precautions were taken.
It seemed that the majority of the public seemed almost determined to ignore experts’ attempts to placate their fears. This sort of fear mongering relates back to our past couple of blog entries, where we’ve concluded that the media both creates and manipulates public fear. The Y2K bug was a valid source of worry to be sure, but the media was an obsessive rumor mill and constantly churned out new stories about Y2K that were based almost solely on “expert opinions.” These opinions consisted often of little more than speculation, but because Y2K was such a hot topic, the public ate these stories up.
We were only eleven years old at the time, and we watched as adults around us panicked about a possible technological collapse. In response to these rumors, we heard of people buying numerous packs of batteries, gallons of bottled water, and even canned food. Some even went as far as to set up shelters in their basements, in the inexplicable fear that all electrical technology would suddenly fail the second the clock struck midnight. While our families worried about the possibility of such an event, we mostly disregarded the panic and took none of those precautions. It seemed as if there were two extremes: those who went out of their way to prepare for catastrophe, however illogical the measures were, and then there were those who barely even acknowledged that a new century was approaching.
Obviously, nothing happened at the turn of the century. Perhaps it was due to the obsessive checking of companies, spurred by the panic. It is likely that nothing major would have happened at all; perhaps a few glitches at most. Ludicrous Y2K fears and speculations, such as planes falling out of the sky, never came to fruition. The only true effect the Y2K rumor and ensuing panic had on the new century was to spur a technological bubble that grew momentously for the first few years of the century and continues to grow today.
Top News – A discussion about freedom of speech in China towards the imprisonments of Mr. Tan Zuoren and Mr. Liu Xiaobo
We would like to discuss about the imprisonment of two human rights activists, Liu Xiaobo and Tan Zuoren. Similarly, both of them have been arrested by the Chinese government with the same charge, “Inciting Subversion of State Power (煽動顛覆國家政權罪)”, as they have written some articles expressing their views towards China’s political and environmental issues.
For Liu Xiaobo, he has penned the article “Charter 08 (零八憲章)” in order to call for greater freedom of expression, human rights, and freedom of elections. What’s more? He has collected over 8,600 signatures to reflect the census and support of Chinese citizens. After the publication, he was formally arrested on June 23, 2009 and sentenced to eleven years imprisonment on December 25, 2009.
On the other hand, Tan Zuoren has written a proposal called the “5.12 Student Archive (5.12學生檔案)” after the Sichuan earthquake. He has gathered information from people who have lost their children in the quake to set up a victim database. Through the investigations, he has described the poor construction quality of Sichuan schools with the expression of Bean-Curd-Pulp (豆腐渣工程). So, it exacerbates the dead and injuries in the disaster. Afterwards, he was arrested in March 2009 and imprisoned for five years from the beginning of 2010.
These two incidents are the induction for what we are trying to discuss, i.e. the freedom of speech in China. The freedom of speech is one of the basic human rights. Supposedly, it should appear in a civilized society. China is booming economically and is becoming a powerful nation in these years. However, it seems that the human rights of citizens and the degree of democracy are highly lagged behind, comparing with western countries. The purpose Tan Zuoren’s and Liu Xiaobo’s writing is to provide a thorough reality for all citizens. They want to arouse the public attention by their advocacy so as to construct a more democratic society. They should have the right to do so.
Human rights refer to the freedom and basic rights of which all humans are entitled. The main idea of human rights emphasizes that every single human should have equal treatment, and strictly forbid the racial, sexual or religious discrimination. Besides, freedom of speech is one of the most concerned one among the rest of the human rights. It is the right and freedom for people to say what one pleases, and to listen to statements from others, and of course, without censorship and/or limitation.
As we all know, China has boomed ever since the late 1970s due to Deng Xiaoping carrying out his new capitalist-inclined system, which promotes the foreign trade and economic investment, typically the Open-Door-Policy. With the implementation of the Western system, China’s economics is boosting in these few decades and she is supposed to be more liberalized under the influence of the Western policies. However, as seen in the news nowadays, China has often been criticized for its lack of freedom by other nations, especially those so-called democratic countries, such as the United States. On many occasions, other countries have been boycotting and/or protesting against China because of the limitations. For example, during the 2008 Beijing Olympics, due to the restrictions on reporting, many foreign journalists were engrossed in violence caused by the local police, resulting in various disapprovals from foreign countries.
In February 2010, Liu Xiaobo was nominated with a Nobel Peace Prize by the US chapter of rights group International Pen, for co-authoring “Charter 08”. Yet, the Chinese government was completely against this nomination, stating that “it is totally wrong.” From this event, we can see that other groups and nations are ready to challenge China and its constraints on freedom of speech. This would cause endless instability among the countries.
In these few years, Chinese citizens have obviously become richer and are competent in sending their children to study overseas. The exposure of the Western cultures and knowledge make the Chinese youths to be more critical and open-minded. After coming back to their hometown, they will be more insightful towards the Chinese governance with limited human rights provided. Also, the advancement of technology and Internet usage allow Chinese people to access the western cultures. So, Chinese people, especially the younger generations, are no longer confined. They strike to demand for a higher level of democracy in China.
If the China Government has not yet planned to offer more human rights, e.g. freedom of speech, there maybe much more oppositions towards her that would affect her governing power. People hesitate to speak, keeping the opinions and voices behind their masks. That would hide the ongoing of the society.
To conclude, we should always look on the bright side. We realize that China tries to make efforts and show less restriction on human rights, as well as the freedom of speech to her citizens. For instance, she signed the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (《公民權利和政治權利國際公約》) to reflect her willingness on improving human rights in response to worldwide criticisms. But the imprisonments of human rights activists reveal the Chinese government is still strictly controlling freedom of speech. Statements and opinions towards political contents will easily be regarded as sedition. We hope that the Chinese government can fully stand to the signed agreement, respecting and ensuring the freedom of speech in China.
South China Morning Post, February 3, 2010. “Beijing warns against Nobel for Liu”.