The “Great (Fire)Wall of China”: The Challenges of Journalism in China

On Thursday afternoon our class attended a lecture by Wu Nan, a student of the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Wu spent three years as a news assistant for the Boston Globe’s Beijing Bureau and spent over a year at the Economic Observer, focusing mostly on the changes in China’s modern society.

Wu Nan discusses the challenges of being a journalist in China

Because of China’s “great firewall” which blocks content deemed unsuitable by the government, reporting and disseminating information is a challenge for journalists. Wu had an interesting analogy in describing it.

“Doing journalism in China is kind of like playing a video game,” she said. “You have to use your wisdom and courage to get around the obstacle to get the word out.” Wu also called the job “frustrating and rewarding at the same time.”

With mainstream journalism being watched with a close eye, social media is extremely valuable to people in China. Wu said over 420 million citizens use the Internet, over 270 million use mobile devices and over 250 million use China’s version of Twitter (the original form has been banned by the government). With so many people connected electronically, social media becomes one of the best avenues for news.

As Wu pointed out, social media can spark conversation and spread rapidly across the public sphere.

“Once the message gets out there, it’s out,” she said. “[The government] can’t do anything about it.”

While the government tries to do as much damage control as possible when unflattering news is passed around, it is nearly impossible to eradicate everything. For this reason, people in China tend to use social media in a much different way than Americans do. In other words, messages about outfits and trips to the mall are rare.

For journalists working in China, the challenges are numerous but the ultimate goal remains unchanged.

“The essence of journalism is the same, trying to empower people with information,” Wu said.

While it was somewhat difficult to put myself in Nan’s position as a reporter, I found her discussion very interesting. Living in America where information flows freely, it seems like a polar opposite being a journalist in China. I can certainly see why social media is so big in China and is somewhat sacred. It truly is one of the most vital resources for the people who live there.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: