Before I came to London, I was an international news editor in China’s state-run news organization Xinhua News Agency. I spent two years working for the Korean edition website, and got a deep understanding about how does the country’s media operate. Now let me save my words and give you more details that you want.
Usually my day started at 8:30am. From 8:30 to 9:00 my colleagues needed to collect the topics to cover for the whole day and report our top stories to the chief editor in our department. Then chief editors from all departments gathered for an editorial meeting and came back to assign missions and convey orders from our supervisors at 10:30. In this way they could make sure staff at every level would understand the news agenda.
The Korean edition website of Xinhua is more like a propaganda tool to Korean speakers than a news site. There are several topics we definitely need to cover: our leaders’ latest speeches and activities; analytical articles that advocate the government’s policies; positive reactions to China from western world; and the government’s new attitude towards Korean Peninsula.
(President Xi paid a visit to Xinhua News Agency last year and had a video call with a journalist during his visit. Picture/Getty Images)
It seems pretty easy, but not really in fact. You can always find traps during working which could make you make mistakes. For instance, at the beginning of this year, one editor from another department picked an article about North Korea to display and got North Korean’s attention. The article was about something really not important that I could barely remember now, but it was negative towards North Korea. The embassy to China made a complaint about the article and the editor was sacked at the end.
This perfectly explained our job. You can report what the supervisors have ordered you to do and you have the proper range of freedom to decide what you want to do. But if your work offended authorities or policies, you need to pay for it.
Next time I will share you with some experience about how the authorities trained journalists and editors in the country and how this influenced the propaganda system.