Four Models of the Fourth Estate: A Typology of Contemporary Chinese Journalists
China Quarterly, Vol. 208, pp. 813-832, December 2011
31 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2012
Date Written: 2011
Scholarly attention has not kept pace with the rapid changes in the pro- fessional role of Chinese journalists. Instead, two older views prevail. The first, which sees Chinese journalists as “mouthpieces” of the Communist Party unchanged from the Maoist era, downplays the tremendous changes in the media since 1978. The second view, holding that they are increasingly becoming “American-style professionals,” overstates the influence of inter- national media norms on Chinese news workers’ day-to-day reality. While such communist and American-style professionals do exist in contemporary China, both are far less influential and numerous than stereotypes would suggest. Exclusive scholarly focus on these groups ignores two other more numerous and influential orientations: “advocate professionals,” those who write to influence opinion and policy, and “workaday journalists,” who work mainly for money and lack a commitment to public service. This article delineates all four types of Chinese journalist and explains why an understanding of the latter two professional orientations is critical to understanding China’s media, politics and society.
Keywords: Chinese media, journalism, professionalization, political advocacy, social change
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