As a green-hand in the garden of journalism, I know that we cannot evade the ultimate question in any case: what is news?
To me, who has no professional basic merely a month ago, the news is something new to the audience, something unusual, either intriguing or terrifying, printed on the newspaper or presented online. Undoubtedly, now it requires a different understanding of what is news due to the role reversal from a passive reader who is waiting to be informed to an active news reporter who engages in attracting his readers.
When asked about how to define news, journalists may give some quite ambiguous answers. Sometimes they just approach to a piece of news story empirically. More often than not, a story or an event must generally meet one or more of the following requirements to be a piece of news: exclusivity, bad news, conflict, surprise, shareability, etc. And apparently, there are loads of other factors defining whether a story would become news, like the practical considerations, cultural influences on journalists, their position in the workplace and so on.
The Internet and all kinds of flourishing social media effectively make the mentioned news value rather international criteria even in China, where the production of news would probably be more highly influenced by the authority or political factors. For example, with the rise of social media, say, the Facebook and Twitter in the UK and the Weibo and WeChat in China, shareability is more and more regarded as a vital news value in both these countries.
However, when it comes to the environment for the production of news, I must admit that situation is much worse in China than that of western countries. Social media like Facebook and Twitter are banned in China because of sensitive political issues. Unlike the newspapers in the UK, which are owned by private businesses and are therefore without government control, newspapers in China are under the control of the party and authority so a series of censorship would be carried out before a piece of news could be released. As a result, the freedom of the press in China is quite weak and limited due to the ideology and political environment.
From my point of view, the press in China is more like a channel of announcements rather than a platform of revealing truth. What the audience are receiving is the information and facts that are carefully selected and censored. This has exerted great but not necessarily positive influence in the news values which determine why this event could be news. Conflicts and bad news might be hidden for the sake of so-called social stability.
Thanks for the technology, democracy may have been improved in China to some extent today, but there is still a long way to go to get a rather high level of press freedom and to make what is supposed to be news news.
image credits: google