Quake Moves Xinhua Past Propaganda

Chinese news agency focuses coverage on victims, not government

By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff

Posted May 13, 2008 7:01 PM CDT

(Newser) – Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, is better known for People’s Republic propaganda than hard-hitting journalism. But in the aftermath of the catastrophic Sichuan earthquake, the Wall Street Journal reports, the agency has published hundreds of up-to-the-minute accounts, many of them on the anguish of the victims and the grievances of provincial officials—a deviation from the usual focus on the government’s response.

Part of Xinhua’s change may be competition from the Internet, which has allowed widespread access to competing reports of current events. Other Chinese journalists question the depth of Xinhua's evolution, but there’s no denying that aggressively covering natural disasters is risky: Perceived incompetence in Beijing's response can seriously damage the government's reputation.

A Chinese couple with their child  inside a stadium, which was converted to a temporary shelter following Monday's powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Mianyang, Sichuan province, China, Tuesday, May 13, 2008.
A Chinese couple with their child inside a stadium, which was converted to a temporary shelter following Monday's powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Mianyang, Sichuan province, China, Tuesday, May...   (AP Photo)
In this photo provided by Xinhua news agency,  rescuers clear the rubble  at an elementary school in Liangping County, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, Tuesday May 13, 2008.
In this photo provided by Xinhua news agency, rescuers clear the rubble at an elementary school in Liangping County, southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, Tuesday May 13, 2008.   (AP Photo)
Rescuers carry a wounded person out of the debris of a collapsed building  after the earthquake at Beichuan County in Mianyang of southwest China's Sichuan province, Tuesday, May 13, 2008. The official death toll after Monday's powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake rose Tuesday to nearly 12,000, and thousands remained...
Rescuers carry a wounded person out of the debris of a collapsed building after the earthquake at Beichuan County in Mianyang of southwest China's Sichuan province, Tuesday, May 13, 2008. The official...   (AP Photo/Color China Photo)
In this photo provided by Xinhua news agency,  a trapped youth from Beichuan middle school waits for rescuers in the earthquake-hit region of Beichuan County, about 160 kilometers northeast of the epicenter in southwest China's Sichuan Province, Tuesday May 13, 2008.
In this photo provided by Xinhua news agency, a trapped youth from Beichuan middle school waits for rescuers in the earthquake-hit region of Beichuan County, about 160 kilometers northeast of the epicenter...   (AP Photo)
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