China, Germany debate online journalism

By Feng Shu in Chengdu Source:Global Times Published: 2012-9-4 0:10:04

At the ongoing China-Germany Media Forum in Chengdu, delegates from both countries shared their views on the different roles that social media can play in online journalism.

With a huge base of 538 million Internet users and nearly 1 billion smart phone users, Chen Tong, editor-in-chief of Sina called the Internet the "best gift the world has given to China," as it has led the country into the era of Weibo, China's version of Twitter. 

"Everyone today can make their voices heard through the Internet as if they are speaking through a microphone," said Chen. By this March, Sina Weibo claimed 324 million registered users, with more than 100 million new posts a day.
Chinese media professionals also collectively agreed that compared to traditional media, Weibo, along with other online outlets, has become the prime source for breaking news as well as an effective tool to supervise the government.

"Though there are many rumors, we have to admit that very original voices by ordinary people have won widespread trust," said Hu Xijin, Editor-in-Chief of the Global Times.

Sina said around 15 percent of last year's hottest social issues started on Weibo, including the train crash in Wenzhou. 

German experts say the German public still tends to rely on traditional media for accurate and insightful news coverage. "China and Germany are not at the same levels regarding the role that microblogs play. In Germany, we have found that Twitter does not have the same political dimension as that found in Chinese Weibo," said Professor Wolfgang Kenntemich from the Communications and Media Institute at the University of Leipzig.

Sabine Christiansen, a German news anchor, called the changes Weibo has brought to China very "instrumental."

"Weibo is great as it allows people to say what they want, air grievances about corruption, and most importantly, get the government to react quickly to fix things," Christiansen told the Global Times. "We don't have such problems in Germany as everything can be said through the media."

"There are many ways Germans can participate in public and political life, such as through activities offered by associations. Internet provides one more option for the public to get involved," said Frank Hartmann, first counsellor of the German embassy to China.

Hu Xijin insisted the media environment in China has become much more open, and will see a growing convergence between traditional media and social media. "The constructive criticism from the traditional media and the straightforward opposing voices from ordinary people on Weibo will finally push forward a reform across all of Chinese society," Hu said.


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