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May 02, 2007

China's fearless muckrakers

China's intrepid freelance journalists follow the stories that no one else dares to cover.

These muckrakers work like private investigators, pursuing stories on a fee-for-service basis. Reporter Xu Xiang became a kind of 7th Samurai of news when a group of peasants scraped together $265 to retain China's Famous Reporter Online Investigations to investigate allegations that the government was forcing farmers off their land:

What happened here in Qinglong was typical of a new kind of journalism that is emerging in response to the Chinese Communist Party's suffocating censorship of newspapers, radio and television. With no more investment than a computer and a taste for taking risks, several dozen Web-based investigative journalists have set up sites and started advertising their willingness -- for a price -- to look into scandals that traditional reporters cannot touch.

Official censorship still protects authorities, including corrupt authorities, more than two decades after China launched itself on a path to reform. In a society that is swiftly modernizing, the security-conscious Communist Party continues to fear, and filter, the spread of information. [WaPo]

Most Western journalists would be shocked at the idea of a reporter who funded his or her publication by taking stories commissioned by private clients.

However, Chinese journalists don't have the luxury of a free press that can hire reporters to pursue the truth as free agents. It's easy to take our freedoms for granted here in the West.

Censorship is just part of the problem. Reporters in a dictatorship like China don't have a lot of options for funding their investigations. No sane company would advertise on a dissident news site. Disinterested private citizens are probably reticent to openly subscribe or answer appeals for donations.

At least the private web-based contracting model enables internet entrepreneurs to get around the censorship of the official media in China.

Some reporters also do free investigations for clients who can't afford to retain them.

Check out the article. It's an inspiring read. 

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Comments

Something isn't always better than nothing, but in this case it probably is. By their nature, these people won't be taking money from the powerful to pursue their interests, so the danger of money in reporting is mostly mitigated. I guess I don't really see how they have a choice. They're no good to anyone dead, and shutting up isn't usually an option to people like this. So they do what they have to do.

If I give you $265, Lindsay, can you track down the asshole who drove through my front yard the other day then write a scathing article about him (or her)?

I just turned 40 this year. Is it some sort of requirement that once you officially become middle-aged some kids gotta fuck with your lawn? Because my path lights were also stolen recently. Little bastards.

This is extremely interesting. China sounding a lot like Tampa. Isn't that amazing what a sham everything is turning in to?

"to look into scandals that traditional reporters cannot touch"
This statement in itself is a travesty. They are picking off journalists in America, as well. I started a blog about it but not ready for public view yet.

Oh, john lucid, this is probably the beginning or middle of telling you that your property is needed for development. Gang behavior is very sophisticated and directed in this case. They're in business to make money. Read the Seattle papers about how the gangs start taking over neighborhoods. You could also read my blog but --- my blog jumps around a lot. Get cameras. Sad but true. Go ahead and invest in those pencil ones and hook them up to a dvr. It's pretty inexpensive and it's admissible and the whole shenanigans is probably bigger than you think and this way your eyes are there without impeding your time in life. I hope you don't think I'm being forward. I'm like the coolest person (if i must say so myself) so when the hassle started -- I took a deep breath and figured it out. You do the same; pretty soon you'll see what's what.

oh and give them enough rope, john. ... don't jump on the small stuff --- let them really get themeselves in hot water ... and watch where they go back to. They have to be close by.



However, Chinese journalists don't have the luxury of a free press that can hire reporters to pursue the truth as free agents. It's easy to take our freedoms for granted here in the West.
And that's how george and co and deddy george have just about taken our rights and our free press away.
You have to admire the guts of these lone agents.
I wonder if they could attract advertising from other countries who would be interested/not afraid of dissenting activities in china. Seems like there HAS to be a way to make money like this. Real reporting is a lost art.

oh and give them enough rope, john. ... don't jump on the small stuff --- let them really get themeselves in hot water ... and watch where they go back to. They have to be close by.



However, Chinese journalists don't have the luxury of a free press that can hire reporters to pursue the truth as free agents. It's easy to take our freedoms for granted here in the West.
And that's how george and co and deddy george have just about taken our rights and our free press away.
You have to admire the guts of these lone agents.
I wonder if they could attract advertising from other countries who would be interested/not afraid of dissenting activities in china. Seems like there HAS to be a way to make money like this.

Sorry for this little drift but:

John, vox is right, plus you might be able to convince the parents to reimburse you for the camera system once you catch them.

A friend of mine did that when he found out someone was leaving used condoms on his car at night. Once he got the parents in his house he slid the bill accross the table and then hit play. It was a small price to pay for the parents to keep the kids' faces off of youtube, google, and the local nightly news.

You said: "Most Western journalists would be shocked at the idea of a reporter who funded his or her publication by taking stories commissioned by private clients."

Of course, these days, most Western journalists would be shocked at the idea of reporting a story that called the government on the carpet. With the media habit in America of rolling over and playing dead, I think I might prefer the Chinese system.

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