“The Chinese media have completely failed at reporting the missing Malaysian plane. Almost all hard facts were first reported by western media like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, BBC, etc. They have truly brought pressure to Malaysia, showing the power of media. What is soft power? This is soft power! Chinese media, on the contrary, are capable of nothing but repeating what western media have already said, or stirring up cheap emotions through chanting meaningless prayers like ‘We will wait for you at home, MH370.’”
Such frustration towards the country’s mainstream media is making the rounds among Chinese public as the search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) stepped into the 10th day. In the hunt for MH370, involved countries’ air defense capabilities and navy powers are not the only things on display. The Chinese public are also having their eyes on the role of media in the unfolding of events. So far, the Chinese media got an “F” as many called their performance “a complete failure.”
“Seeing how the missing Malaysian flight has been reported in the news confirms once again that China doesn’t have ‘news’, but only propaganda.” One netizen bitter commented.
Since last week, US media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and CNN have released several key information that turned out to be crucial in accessing the mysterious disappearance of MH370. On the contrary, Chinese media have yet to bring anything valuable to the table, despite the fact that 154 out of the 239 people on board are Chinese.
王志安, a Chinese media professional, reflected: “Chinese media have a lot to catch up with, in comparison with how western media have handled stories of the missing Malaysian jet. Media in China lack the vision to see the bigger picture, nor do they know where and how to investigate a case like this. With an over-reliance on ‘official pressers,’ Chinese media either passively wait for information to be fed to them, or only report on what’s obvious.”
Many argue that in an unprecedented event like the missing Malaysian jet, the media should function in collaboration as an “assembly line rolling out information.” China journalists, however, failed to find their position at the assembly line, reduced to mere “information transporters” at press conferences.
Chinese netizens sarcastically summarized that the three killing strikes of Chinese media are “repeating, stirring up emotions, and praying.”
Open the official Weibo page of People’s Daily, the last post on MH370 was “Hello, tomorrow. There’s always hope. Good night.” In response, Chinese netizens urged journalists at People’s Daily to fulfill their duty to “inform the public.” One netizen 哼哼唧唧2013222 commented: “Our state media are praying and singing empty hopes again. Can’t you find something more meaningful to do? Look at the Wall Street Journal and the Telegraph!”
The next three updates by People’s Daily were “according to US Navy,” “according to AFP” and “according to the New York Times.” On the official Weibo page of Southern Metropolis Daily, a newspaper published in Guangzhou known for its investigative reporting, the two most recent non-Malaysian presser posts on MH370 were from the Telegraph and ABC respectively.
In defense of Chinese media, many argue that the weakness doesn’t lie in the media, but rather in China and its aviation industry. “It’s impossible for Chinese journalists to get first-hand information from Boeing. It’d be another story if the plane was made in China.” One netizen 飞象网项立刚 commented.
Another netizen 逸云谷 echoed a similar sentiment: “Investigation results are released by the US one after another. At the same time, another so-called ‘great power’ is able to do nothing but to urge Malaysia to provide more thorough and correct information. Such a big difference is like a slap in the face. There is a reason why US is the greatest global power. In comparison, China is but a ‘paper tiger.’”
Some Chinese media professionals blame China’s lack of media freedom for their poor performance. In response to a netizen’s comment that they should learn how to be a real journalist from House of Cards, one popular Chinese media Caijing pointed out: “Do you think a TV show like House of Cards is possible in China? If not, why expect China to produce journalists like the ones in House of Cards?”
“After all, China can only produce journalist as good as its media freedom allows it to.” One netizen 夏骏 commented.