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A Survey Report on Chinese Journalists in China*

  • Fen Lin


This report presents a portrait of contemporary liberal Chinese journalists. Compared with the national average ten years ago, a typical journalist in Guangzhou is younger, better-educated and more likely to be female, and less likely to be a Communist Party member. The survey shows that the literati value coexists with both the modern professional and Party journalism value during the current journalistic professionalization. Such coexistence results in a complexity in journalists' attitude and behaviour. Journalists tend to be inactively liberal: possessing liberal attitudes but not engaging themselves in action. The survey also reports evidence on the contingency of journalistic behaviour logic. Professional logic shows its popularity when journalists encounter conflicts involving legal, economic and political concerns, but not in cases involving moral or cultural conflicts. Neither professional nor commercial logic is strong enough to oppose political logic when journalists are handling severe political issues.



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1 Guangzhou Yearbook Committee, Guangzhou Yearbook. (Guangzhou: Guangzhou Yearbook Press, 2006).

2 The sampled newspapers included: Guanzhou ribao (Guangzhou Daily), Xinxi ribao (Information Daily), Nanfang ribao (Southern Daily), Nanfang du shibao (Southern Metropolitan Daily), Nanfang zhoumou (Southern Weekend), 21 shiji jiongji baodao (21st Century Business Herald), Nanfang nongcun bao (Southern Village News), Yangcheng wanbao (Yangcheng Evening), Xin kuaibao (New Express), Mingying jingji bao (Private Economy News), Guangdong jianshe bao (Guangdong Construction Daily).

3 Baowei, Zhen and Chen, Xun, “Chuanmeiren dui youchang xinwen de kanfa – Zhongguo xinwen gongzuozhe zhiye daode baogao” (“Journalists' views on paid journalism – a survey on Chinese journalists' professional ethics”), Xinwen jizhe (The Journalist Monthly), Vol. 5, No. 255 (2004), pp. 2022.

4 Ye, Lu and Yu, W.D.. “Shehui zhuanxing zhong chuanmei renshi zhiye zhuangkuang – 2002 Shanghai xinwen congyezhi diaocha baogao” (“Journalists in social transition – 2002 Shanghai journalists survey report”), Xinwen jizhe, Vol. 1, No. 239 (2003), pp. 4244.

5 Chen, Chongshan, Zhu, Jian Hua and Wu, Wei, “The Chinese journalist,” in Weaver, D.H. (ed.), The Global Journalist: News People around the World (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press Inc., 1998), pp. 930.

6 Joseph Man Chan, Paul S.N. Lee and Chin-Chuan Lee, “East meets West: Hong Kong journalists in transition,” in Weaver, The Global Journalist, pp. 31–53.

7 Ye J. Yang Lu, and Chen, S.J., “Shanghai guangbo dianshi meiti congye renyuan diaocha fenxi baogao – kua shiji shanghai guangdian meiti fazhan zhanlü yanjiu” (“A survey report on radio/TV professionals – a research on the development strategies of media industry Shanghai across centuries”), Xinwen daxue (Journalistic University), Vol. 1 (2000), pp. 4045; Luo, W.H., Chen, T.W. and Pan, Z.. “Dalu, Xianggang yu Taiwan xinwen renyuan dui xinwen lunli de taidu yu renzhi” (“Attitude and views on professional ethics among journalists in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan”), Xinwenxue yanjiu (Journalism Study), Vol. 68 (2001), pp. 5389; Youth Journalist Editorial Committee, “Xinwen congye zhuangkuang diaochao baogao” (“Survey on Chinese journalists”), Qingnian jizhe (Youth Journalist), Vol. 21 (2006), pp. 811.

8 All p-values reported here are adjusted for the survey design.

9 Chen, Zhu and Wu. “The Chinese journalist,” pp. 9–30.

11 Lin Fen. “Serving on the edge: Chinese journalism as a risky ping pong game,” North American Chinese Sociologists Association Annual Meeting, New York City, 10 August 2007.

12 The data on autonomy over page design exclude reporters due to division of labour.

13 News discipline refers to the rules set by propaganda departments, which is different from professional rules of news.

14 Guoming, Yu. “Woguo xinwen gongzuozhe zhiye yishi yu zhiye daode diaocha baogao” (“A survey report on Chinese journalists' professional views and ethics”), Minzhu yu kexue (Democracy and Science), Vol. 3 (1998), pp. 1017.

15 Lin Fen, “Turning gray: transition of political communication in China, 1978–2008,” dissertation, department of Sociology, University of Chicago, 2008.

16 Ibid.

17 Fen, Lin. “Dancing beautifully, but with hands cuffed? A historical review of journalism formation during media commercialization in China,” Perspectives, Vol. 7, No. 2 (2006), pp. 7998.

18 Chinese Yearbook of Lawyers Committee, Zhongguo lüshi nianjian (Chinese Yearbook of Lawyers) (Beijing: People's Court Press, 2006).

19 Ministry of Health of China, Zhongguo weisheng nianjian (Chinese Yearbook of Health) (Beijing: Zhongguo xiehe yike daxue chubanshe, 2008).

* This research was supported by the Horowitz Foundation for Social Policy, and the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago. I am grateful to Dingxin Zhao, William Parish, Edward Laumann, Chin-Chuan Lee, Tun Lin, Jason Teo and Xingzhi Zhang. Special thanks to those journalists who I cannot name here.

A Survey Report on Chinese Journalists in China*

  • Fen Lin


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