Chi­nese jour­nal­ists dis­cuss chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties in the in­ter­net age

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Huang Yi­ran

“When will the video be ready?” “Hey, has any­one seen the cam­era?” “Oh, no, my PR is down again!” “Hooray, we have 1,000 more fol­low­ers on Weibo!” Just three months ago, when I first started my new ca­reer as a re­porter for the Global Times in Bei­jing,

I never ex­pected that be­ing a jour­nal­ist

would sound like this. I thought it was all about get­ting scoops and con­duct­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions and in­ter­views and typ­ing away at my key­board. But now, be­sides the oc­ca­sional in­ter­views and story-writ­ing, we have a more crit­i­cal task: mak­ing short video re­ports in or­der to at­tract more mil­len­ni­als on so­cial me­dia.

In fact, thou­sands of jour­nal­ists in China are un­der­go­ing a sim­i­lar trans­for­ma­tion in their ca­reers and places of work as print me­dia quickly be­comes re­placed by dig­i­tal con­tent.

Ac­cord­ing to the China In­ter­net De­vel­op­ment Re­port 2017 re­leased by China In­ter­net Net­work In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter in Jan­uary, the num­ber of Chi­nese In­ter­net users reached 772 mil­lion in 2017. Among them, 97 per­cent are mo­bile phone users, which in­creased by about 2 per­cent yearon-year.

Data re­leased by iiMe­dia Re­search, a mo­bile in­ter­net busi­ness that of­fers data min­ing and in­te­grated mar­ket­ing ser­vices, shows that by the end of 2017, short video users in China reached 242 mil­lion. The fig­ure is ex­pected to in­crease to 353 mil­lion by the end of 2018.

How to at­tract the short at­ten­tion spans of mil­len­nial ne­ti­zens has be­come the big­gest chal­lenge in to­day’s me­dia. But for pro­fes­sional jour­nal­ists who have long fa­vored qual­ity over clicks, what are the op­por­tu­ni­ties and chal­lenges they are fac­ing?

On this spe­cial oc­ca­sion – No­vem­ber 8, which marks the 19th an­nual Chi­nese Jour­nal­ist Day – I in­ter­viewed my col­leagues here at the Global Times in Bei­jing to share their ex­pe­ri­ences about be­ing a “new me­dia” jour­nal­ist in the dig­i­tal age.

Ev­ery step takes ef­fort

“At first I thought be­ing a jour­nal­ist was all about in­ter­view­ing and writ­ing. Then I was told that we have to also make short videos – all by our­selves. At that mo­ment I thought, ‘oops, I’m about to lose my job.’”

These words were spo­ken by my col­league Li Jieyi. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing her mas­ter’s de­gree in June, she chose jour­nal­ism for her first job. Although she learned about jour­nal­ism in univer­sity, noth­ing pre­pared her for the ad­vent of new me­dia.

How­ever, af­ter three months, she is now get­ting used to the faster pace of her new re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. Some of Li’s videos have re­ceived hun­dreds of thou­sands of views on one of China’s big­gest so­cial me­dia plat­forms, Sina Weibo.

A new jour­nal­ist my­self, I have ex­pe­ri­enced a sim­i­lar jour­ney. In­ter­view­ing, shoot­ing and edit­ing videos – in ad­di­tion to hav­ing to pro­mote it on so­cial me­dia – ev­ery step takes a lot of ef­fort, espe­cially for new me­dia new­bies.

Sim­i­lar-yet-dif­fer­ent to the old days of jour­nal­ism, when a writer’s hap­pi­est mo­ment was see­ing their ar­ti­cle in print, our hap­pi­est mo­ment now comes when one of our videos re­ceives thou­sands of views and likes. Oc­ca­sion­ally it even goes vi­ral. It is then that you fi­nally re­al­ize the im­por­tance of new me­dia.

The more things change...

My col­league Wei Xi has been a jour­nal­ist for over seven years. As an old hand, she told me that her de­ci­sion to be­come a re­porter was out of a de­sire for free­dom. “I don’t like sit­ting in an of­fice all the time. Be­ing a jour­nal­ist, you can go out­side to in­ter­view peo­ple. I like this work­ing style,” she said.

An­other rea­son for her ca­reer choice was that it gave her the op­por­tu­nity to glimpse into other peo­ple’s thoughts about life. “The sto­ries of or­di­nary peo­ple al­ways at­tract me,” she told Met­ro­pol­i­tan. “I once in­ter­viewed a food de­liv­ery­man who works only at night. He is op­ti­mistic and loves read­ing books in his spare time. When we went into his sim­ple room, I no­ticed that Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Na­tions was at his bed­side. That was en­cour­ag­ing to me.”

That in­ter­view was also turned into a short video. To shoot the ma­te­rial, Wei and Li rose at 3 am that day and trav­eled across the city. The in­ter­view and shoot­ing took them four hours. They wrapped just as the sun was ris­ing over Bei­jing.

...the more they stay the same

“The most dif­fi­cult thing [as an old­school jour­nal­ist] is to com­pete with you post mil­len­ni­als,” Wei says half-jok­ingly. “Soft­ware and cy­ber lan­guage are my headaches. So I hope I can keep learn­ing and make ad­vances con­stantly.”

Like her col­league Wei, writ­ing for Met­ro­pol­i­tan for the past seven years is Yin Lu, who too has wit­nessed China’s dig­i­tal rev­o­lu­tion as well as the marked changes in her pro­fes­sion and of­fice. Es­tab­lished in 2009, Yin has seen Met­ro­pol­i­tan Bei­jing go through ma­jor trans­for­ma­tions. But ac­cord­ing to her, there are some things that never change.

“At first, we fo­cused mostly on lo­cal news. Later we shifted to in-depth re­ports on the lives of lo­cal ex­pats and hot top­ics in Bei­jing. Now we are trans­form­ing yet again to new me­dia,” Yin said. “Although many [em­ploy­ees] come and go, the fea­ture of our team re­mains the spirit of in­no­va­tion and con­stantly seek­ing change and improve­ment.”

“Mak­ing a good video not only re­quire pro­fes­sional edit­ing skills. It also de­pends on the jour­nal­ist’s own qual­i­ties, like the abil­ity of story-telling and cre­ative think­ing, a sense of aes­thet­ics and the un­der­stand­ing of the fea­tures of dif­fer­ent so­cial me­dia plat­forms.” Yin said.

“We will keep learn­ing through prac­tice,” she added.

Photo: VCG

With the ris­ing pop­u­lar­ity of short video, Chi­nese jour­nal­ists are trans­form­ing them­selves from print me­dia writ­ers to new me­dia con­tent cre­ators in or­der to cater to the tastes of young au­di­ences.

Photo: VCG

Tak­ing pho­tos and shoot­ing video clips are re­quired skills for many jour­nal­ists in China to­day.

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