Monday, April 7, 2008

Examining netizen accusations of media bias

A netizens' movement has turned ugly to include death threats against Western journalists; and now it turning against individual Chinese.

What of the original accusations of Western news media bias --accusations that supposedly incited nationalism. The WSJ writes: "The precise basis for the complaints isn't clear, although critics have circulated a few photographs published on news Web sites that they argue were misleadingly cropped or captioned." That is all the netizens' evidence ever amounted to, as I first blogged on March 25. What of those misleading photo captions? One journalist explains:
I would only add to that something from my personal experience as a former editor, which perhaps most of my colleagues do not have. It might seem strange, because it ought to be so simple, but captioning and placing pictures is the area of journalism which is, by far, the most bedevilled by mistakes. Text and picture media do not meet happily, and while technology ought to have made things better, somehow databank search devices seem to have made things worse - hit "Tibetans + riot" and a collection of similar photos but which have totally different context can easily spew out and be placed without proper attention by sub-editors far away from the action. It is wrong and infuriatingly so, but common. I speak as someone who has twice had pictures of myself miscaptioned in my own newspapers . . . .
The evidence behind the campaign against the Western media largely rested on claims that the placement of photo captions had been deliberate and malicious. As I the above-quoted journalist explains and I have blogged, the accusation is likely just plain wrong.
I examine the other evidence here, here and here, and find it similarly lacking in substance.
See this post for more context on this issue.

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