Archive for the 'Journalism' Category

Beijing to Drop Broadcast Delay

photo by Thomas Tribe

SEOUL – BEIJING’S CCTV WILL DROP its normal 30-second broadcast delay on channels covering the Olympic games, according to the official Xinhua News Agency, allowing viewers to see the events in real-time (via Reuters):

China Central Television (CCTV) has always built a 30-second delay into the transmission of live programs to ensure they aired “smoothly and safely,” the report said.

The time lag also gives the government-controlled broadcaster a brief window to stop images of protests or content critical of officials from reaching ordinary viewers.

Broadcasters in the U.S. have occasionally delayed footage in a similar way — especially after the Janet Jackson incident at the superbowl in 2004 — although it could be argued that the practice is largely employed Stateside to protect media from litigation-happy viewers. CCTV’s use of of the delay is more insidious on a couple levels, as it functions mainly to keep citizens in the dark by (sometimes literally) blacking out events and because the broadcaster controls a total of 17 channels.

Despite promising press freedom during the games, Beijing is keeping a close watch over foreign journalists, especially if they don’t procure the proper visa. From a recent NYT blog post:

Less clear is the fate of thousands of freelancers and reporters for local papers, smaller news outlets and niche publications. One freelancer in the U.S. told [the Committee to Protect Journalists] that, having heard of the problems getting a journalist’s visa, she tried to enter the country as a tourist, only to be told that she would have to sign a pledge promising not to write a magazine article about her experiences. Apparently, Chinese immigration agents have learned the power of Google.

This raises questions about the rights of foreign bloggers in the country as well, as there is little doubt that the local government will be keeping a close eye on the Internet; dozens of postings on riots in southwest China last month were apparently blocked by local censors.

Globalization Hits Journalism: OC Register to Outsource Editing

OUTSOURCING TO INDIA ISN’T just for the tech support or medical transcription industries anymore. Southern California’s Orange County Register has said it plans to outsource some of its copyediting and layout duties to the South Asian country — causing a stir in the already struggling journalism biz (via FP Passport):

Orange County Register Communications Inc. will begin a one-month trial with Mindworks Global Media at the end of June, said John Fabris, a deputy editor at the Register.

Mindworks’ Web site says the company is based outside New Delhi and provides “high-quality editorial and design services to global media firms … using top-end journalistic and design talent in India.”

Editors at Mindworks will work five shifts a week for one month, performing layout for the community paper and editing some stories in the flagship Register, Fabris said. Staffing at the company will not be affected, he said.

If the trial period turns out to be a success (however that may be gauged) it’s hard to believe that staff cuts won’t come in the tailwind — if not at the Register, then at the next paper that chooses to employ overseas editors.

Beyond job concerns, there is the question of how people living thousands of miles away can begin to edit content for which they have no context, for a community in which they have no vested interest. I’m sure the OC paper can expect spectacularly clean text on a technical level. But what it loses may be in the finer details.

China’s Media Ignores Relay Protests

THOUGH IT’S PLASTERED ACROSS broadsheets all over the world, news of the besieged Olympic torch relay is apparently not reaching many in China. According to the Asia Sentinel, Beijing is so far not making good on its promise of unfetterred Olympics coverage — perhaps that only applied to sports?

“Warm reception in cold London,” read the April 7 headline in China Daily, the country’s largest English language newspaper. Warm? Well, yes, in fact it was almost explosive if you read accounts from western newspapers and watched (erratically blacked out by panicked Chinese censors) CNN and BBC-World television accounts via mainland cable and satellite that detailed the hundreds of protestors who disrupted and twice almost extinguished the “sacred flame” as State news agency Xinhua continually refers to the torch.

It wasn’t until the ninth paragraph that China Daily hinted that the “Olympic fever gripping snowy London” was nearly fatal to Beijing’s best laid plans. And even then only 25 protesters were said to have been arrested – compared to 35 or 36 arrests and descriptions of hundreds along the 30-mile route in western press accounts […]

What sticks out most sorely in all of this is that, through its continued oppression of dissenting voices in journalism, China is proving all the protesters right; the country’s economy may have boomed, but in fundamental ways the system hasn’t changed.

As criticism from overseas gets noisier, some are worried about the emergence of familiar nationalist rhetoric in the Middle Kingdom — and what it may mean for the future of foreign relations.

China as an Intellectual Force

DESPITE THE MANY ARTISTS, writers and filmmakers that are currently doing big things in China, often with a political slant, the country’s modern culture continues to be looked at from the outside through the framework of its brute-force economy. But perhaps not for much longer.

Mark Leonard has spent the last five years studying the China’s growing intellectualism, and writes a surprising and important piece about the movement for Prospect magazine this month. Among Leonard’s more interesting observations is that China’s strict one-party system has unexpectedly (and likely, unintentionally) fostered a thriving environment for public debate:

Paradoxically, the power of the Chinese intellectual is amplified by China’s repressive political system, where there are no opposition parties, no independent trade unions, no public disagreements between politicians and a media that exists to underpin social control rather than promote political accountability. Intellectual debate in this world can become a surrogate for politics—if only because it is more personal, aggressive and emotive than anything that formal politics can muster. While it is true there is no free discussion about ending the Communist party’s rule, independence for Tibet or the events of Tiananmen Square, there is a relatively open debate in leading newspapers and academic journals about China’s economic model, how to clean up corruption or deal with foreign policy issues like Japan or North Korea.

Read the full article. (Via Howard French.)

Photo: tiananmen square, by pmorgan.

Someone Else’s Shoes: SF’s Underbelly

AMANDA WITHERELL AND BRYAN Cohen, in the true fashion of investigative journalism, spent a week in and out of San Francisco’s homeless shelters getting an unfiltered look at life on the streets. The SF Bay Guardian reporters chronicled their harrying experience on separate blogs, and Witherell wrote a compelling piece for the paper that sharply dissected the local homelessness situation.

The two discovered firsthand that despite the presence of empty beds cross the city, a breakdown in communication among a network of shelters means night after night people are forced either to doze fitfully in the equivalent of a waiting room or to find an empty patch of sidewalk. It took Cohen five days to find a bed. When they did successfully navigate the confusing shelter system, the reporters were often met with terrible smells and grudging staff, only to be briskly ushered out into the cold morning at six o’clock. The article paints a grim and honest picture of the crushing struggle so many face, and scratches at our sense of common human dignity. An absolutely essential read.

Yahoo, Accomplice to a Crackdown

YAHOO IS DEFENDING ITSELF as it gets lambasted by U.S. lawmakers for being complicit in the crackdown and imprisonment of a Chinese pro-democracy journalist (AP):

“While technologically and financially you are giants, morally you are pygmies,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos, D-Calif., said angrily after hearing from the two Yahoo executives.

He angrily urged Yahoo Chief Executive Jerry Yang and General Counsel Michael Callahan to apologize to journalist Shi Tao’s mother, who was sitting directly behind them.

Shi was sentenced to 10 years in prison for politically “subversive” activities by the Chinese government after Yahoo handed over information about his online activities.

In addition to divulging information about Chinese citizens (Wang Xiaoning was similarly sentenced to 10 years in 2002 after the Internet company provided information to authorities), Yahoo has willingly tailored its search engine in China to filter responses to search terms like “democracy” or “Falun Gong”, doing their part to layer bricks in the Great Firewall of China. They have also engineered their photo-sharing site Flickr in such a way that residents in Singapore, South Korea, Germany and Hong Kong cannot access uncensored content.

And all along the way they’ve made pathetic excuses – this from a Wall Street Journal post back in 2006:

Yahoo’s Terry Semel faced tough questions from Walt Mossberg — and the audience — over the search company’s decision to comply with requests for user data from the Chinese government, which has used the information to pursue dissidents.

“I continue to be pissed off, outraged, and feel very very bad about it,” Mr. Semel said. “But you have to follow the laws of the country you’re in.”

Mr. Semel went on: “I don’t think any one company is going to change a country, and I dont think any one industry is going to change a country. ”

Grade A cop-out bullshit. Where is the sense of responsibility, of courage, of doing the right thing? Yahoo quivers at the thought of losing the Chinese market as though the rest of the world were not enough, and doesn’t hesitate to throw upstanding human beings under the rug if it means holding on to their investment. I’m glad they’re getting the verbal battering they deserve, but I question whether that’s enough.

RELATED NEWS: Chinese environmental defender loses appeal against concocted blackmail charges (TDT loses faith in humanity – see related post).

Korean Government Blocks Journalists’ Access

BY SHUTTING DOWN PRESSROOMS in 11 government ministries throughout South Korea yesterday the Roh Moo Hyun administration made a bold move towards controlling the flow of information to the public.

The Korea Times reports that the closure of the rooms – where journalists can hookup their laptops and have ready access to government officials – was met with wide protest. Reporters sat in ministry lobbies and continued to write.

The pressroom closures are part of a new media policy in South Korea, in which reporters are only allowed to use a new central pressroom regardless of their beat and must have permission to meet with government officials when writing an article.

Surprisingly, the more conservative opposition Grand National Party condemned the closure:

The government pressrooms are offered by the people to watch the government, not by the government,” Ahn Sang-soo, the party floor leader, said. “The shutdown is against taxpayers’ wishes.”

The GNP will try to pass a bill to reopen the pressrooms as soon as possible, he said.

The closures have frightening implications for the free flow of information, and raise the question: Why is the government shortening the leash?

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