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Learning the news

By Wen Ya Source:Global Times Published: 2013-12-17 20:38:01

Photo: CFP

Journalism in China is considered by many as a frustrating profession. From poor dating prospects to physical threats from local thugs, reporters face a number of challenging obstacles. The latest, however, comes from the top, as new regulations from the national media watchdog demand journalists into weekly training to qualify for their profession.

Fang Fang (pseudonym), a reporter at a Changsha-based newspaper, is one of the 250,000 journalists who must pass the national exam for journalism certification to be held next year, despite already holding a certificate issued in 2010. Media experts say this indicates the government strengthening its already-tight management after a series of scandals involving journalists taking bribes this year.

Fang's newspaper has arranged thrice-weekly training, eating up an hour of the workday every time, since October. But Fang says she isn't confident about the results.  "Judging from the training materials, the exam in 2014 is more difficult than the one in 2009," Fang told the Global Times. "I feel somewhat stressed about it."

Marxism as guide

The exam operates on a five-year-cycle, forcing journalists to renew their certification.

In September, the State General Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television issued a notice, demanding that all news organizations should hold the training before the exam to be held between January and February in 2014.   

The training should focus on the textbooks compiled by the administration which falls into six parts including socialism with Chinese characteristics, the Marxist view of journalism, journalistic ethics, regulation on journalism, news reporting norms and preventing rumors, according to the notice.

"The training and the exam aim to improve the overall professional quality of reporters," Zhang Zhi'an, an associate professor at the School of Communication and Design at Sun Yat-sen University and one of the textbooks' authors, told the Global Times on Sunday.

The training and exam target all reporters, urging them to adhere to "Marxist view of journalism," build the core values of socialism and to obey relative laws and regulations, providing better reports for the people, the Party and the country, Men Lijun, an official with the newspaper department of  the administration, told people.com.cn in October.

"Compared with my first training in 2009, the training this time highlights more on political policies and affairs," Fang said.

The "Marxist view of journalism" emphasizes "objectivity," as defined by the textbook, and "the leading role of the Party in publicity," as well as the media being a "field and weapon to address the Party's thinking and political ideas." According to former Chinese leader Mao Zedong, "Newspapers should be operated by politicians."

Chen Lidan, a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication at Renmin University of China, told the Global Times that stressing the Marxist view of journalism means the government strengthening its supervision over media.

Yin Yungong, the director of a research center focusing on socialism with Chinese characteristics, believes that strengthening the Marxist view is urgently needed.

Yin told the Global Times on Tuesday. "Marxism is the guiding thought of China, thus it's also significant to guide the media. Marxism aims to pursue benefits for the most and serve the country."

Under the Marxist view of journalism, news staffers cannot make use of public power for private benefits, said Yin, adding that in recent years, some journalists lost their faith and used the media to make money for themselves.

Xiong Xiong, chief editor of IT special pages of Beijing Youth Daily, was arrested recently for allegedly taking bribes of more than 1 million yuan, news portal caixin.com reported on December 12.

Xiong was accused of paid news. IT special pages and other special pages of the newspaper were halted during the rectification of the Beijing Youth Daily.

"The case is just the tip of the iceberg. Some reporter who lack ethics still have not surfaced," Yin said. "We urgently need to educate media circles with the Marxist view of journalism. Such education can't be loosened and should be conducted in a long term."

Industry under stress

The training originated in 2003, when it was first organized by the General Administration of Press and Publications, the predecessor to the current administration.  But previously journalists' certification was simply renewed periodically, and supervision of reporters was lax, according to the magazine China Journalist.

This new tightening is in line with a report by the Central Committee of Communist Party of China (CPC) that was passed by the Third Plenary Session of the 18th CPC Central Committee in November.

The report stresses that "the qualification of news staffers should be strict and operation and management of new media should be highlighted to make the communication order more normal," according to the Xinhua News Agency.

Chinese reporters faced several shocking events in 2013. In October, Guangzhou-based New Express newspaper printed an apology, which rocked China's media establishment, after one of its reporters, Chen Yongzhou, confessed on national television of taking bribes. Previously the newspaper had accused Chen of being targeted by local police to defend business interests.

The editor-in-chief and a vice president of the newspaper were removed from their posts in early November.

Positive publicity

In August in a national conference on the publicity and ideological work, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for greater initiative in the publicity and ideologiscal work to ensure a correct political direction, especially when major issues of principle arise, Xinhua reported.

"Publicity work is about the consolidation of the guiding role of Marxism on the ideological front, and the consolidation of the common ideological base for all Party members and all the people," Xi said while addressing at the national conference.

Xi stressed positive publicity that upholds unity, stability and encouragement as a key guideline for the country's publicity and ideology work. Xi's speech is being made important part of the exam.

In an interview with Xinhua, Wang Yukai, a professor with the Chinese Academy of Governance, said, "There is a crisis of belief in the society. Improvement in the publicity and ideological work will help build consensus and safeguard social stability."
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