Real peo­ple, real is­sues de­serve me­dia fo­cus

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - VIEWS -

When­ever I check my cell­phone for news, I’m greeted by en­ter­tain­ment news pro­mos: One celebrity is hav­ing an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair while an­other faces a di­vorce. Some­times th­ese pro­mos are hid­den un­der the cover of “so­cial news” in or­der to at­tract more clicks.

In the late 1800s, US news­pa­pers were us­ing so much pulp news to amuse, and thus at­tract more read­ers that their style came to be known as “yel­low jour­nal­ism”. To­day, Chi­nese me­dia out­lets seem to be do­ing the same. A pan-en­ter­tain­ment trend has been sweep­ing across so­cial net­works and me­dia out­lets, and it fur­ther in­ten­si­fied in 2016.

Some might ar­gue amuse­ment and en­ter­tain­ment news is a trend to­day be­cause that is what most peo­ple want. True, read­ers and view­ers fond of en­ter­tain­ment news are to partly blame for the trend, but the fact is, the pan-en­ter­tain­ment sec­tion takes up so much space on screen that even those look­ing for se­ri­ous news sto­ries have dif­fi­culty find­ing them.

No won­der when some main­stream me­dia out­lets re­cently re­ported the mov­ing deeds of some sci­en­tists, many peo­ple asked why th­ese peo­ple were never heard of be­fore. We have ex­cel­lent teach­ers, work­ers, sol­diers and farm­ers, yet sel­dom do me­dia out­lets fo­cus on any of them.

More im­por­tantly, China is un­der­go­ing so­cial trans­for­ma­tion with many newly emerg- ing prob­lems. Too much me­dia fo­cus on celebri­ties will di­vert peo­ple’s at­ten­tion from the re­ally im­por­tant prob­lems that de­serve se­ri­ous at­ten­tion.

For ex­am­ple, the higher ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem’s prob­lems can be solved only by deep­en­ing the on­go­ing re­form. Ex­perts need to think more about th­ese prob­lems and help the lead­er­ship make the de­ci­sions and guide the re­form in the right di­rec­tion, which they have not yet done to their full po­ten­tial.

It’s time me­dia out­lets stopped vi­o­lat­ing the code of ethics of jour­nal­ism. Jour­nal­ists have the obli­ga­tion to re­port about real is­sues and share with read­ers both the progress we have made and the chal­lenges we are fac­ing.

In 2016, jour­nal­ists have done a good job by high­light­ing some mile­stone ju­di­cial cases that will fur­ther pro­mote the rule of law, and spread­ing the sports­man­ship spirit dur­ing the Rio Olympic Games. Th­ese are val­ues that should be cher­ished in the so­ci­ety. Hope­fully, the pan-en­ter­tain­ment trend will start fad­ing next year as peo­ple pay more at­ten­tion to what truly de­serves their at­ten­tion.

The au­thor is a pro­fes­sor in com­mu­ni­ca­tions at Hainan Trop­i­cal Ocean Uni­ver­sity.

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