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. (Read more Xinhua stories.)