Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 13:54 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 13:54 | SYDNEY

Did the new media fail in Beijing?


Sam Roggeveen


18 September 2008 11:23

That's not precisely the conclusion of this report from  the Salzburg Academy on Media and Global Change (thanks to Passport for the link), but it does seem to suggest that the Chinese authorities pulled the wool over the media's eyes to a large extent. Based on a survey of 68 major newspapers in 29 countries, the report concludes:

Overall, the world's press gave China predominantly favorable coverage: Prior to the Olympics, there was much speculation that the media would turn the games into an international anti-China campaign—after all there had been extensive coverage of the protests against China’s human rights record during the global torch relay and of the rioting in Tibet. But that all essentially disappeared off the front pages of global newspapers.

Indeed there was 'much speculation' about the media turning the Games into an anti-China campaign — in fact, I did some speculating myself. And to follow up on that post — which argued that Beijing would find it impossible to stop thousands of 'citizen journalists' armed with camera phones and blogs from getting the real China story out to the world — one has to ask what happened to the new media during the Beijing Olympics?

It's not that there weren't plenty of bloggers writing about China during the Games, but if there was a concerted anti-China campaign in the blogosphere, it didn't penetrate the mainstream media narrative. Now, that's not the only measure of success or failure, since it is increasingly mistaken to judge the success of the new media in terms of how much attention it gets from the old media. But as far as I can recall, there were no big stories broken by tourists with blogs who happened to witness brutal crackdowns or human rights abuses, as I suspected would happen.

There are two ways to explain this: either the new media is not all its cracked up to be, or Chinese authorities behaved themselves during the Games and put on a really good show.