On 2 January 2014, the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television (SAPPRFT) issued a notice concerning five cases of fake and vulgar news from the second half of 2013 involving seven media outlets. It’s not an exhaustive list (Shanghai Journalism Review 新闻记者 recently circulated a list of ten case studies taken from a much larger collection 2013’s fake media stories that ran in its January issue), but rather a set of illustrative examples of the various types of unprofessionalism that harm the image and credibility of the news media, to the detriment of society at large. We’ve added classifications and additional background details to the SAPPRFT’s list of violations:
1. Vulgar headlines: Li Tianyi 李天一, the son of PLA singers, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in September for his part in a gang rape. Li’s mother Meng Ge 梦鸽 was a major participant in the media frenzy surrounding the trial, and a number of media outlets succumbed to the temptation to run vulgar puns on 他妈的 (‘his mother’s’ as well as the ‘national obscenity’) as headlines. SAPPRFT dinged Shandong’s Liaocheng Evening News 聊城晚报 for the 28 June article 李天一他妈的要求高，律师不干了, and Shanghai’s Xinmin Weekly 新民周刊 for the article 李某某他妈的舆论战.
2. Vulgar advertising: On 20 August, Southern Metropolis Daily 南方都市报 ran a full-page advertisement purporting to be a note from ‘Zhang’s wife’ to ‘Zhang’s ex-wife’, calling on her to give up and let the man go. The advert turned out to have been placed by Hanhoo 韩后, a cosmetics brand. Press authorities felt that it was vulgar, sensationalistic, and violated public morals.
3. Sensationalist, out-of-context quoting: In a September 2 exposé on corruption in a village south of the city of Sanmenxia, Henan province, Window of the South 南风窗 led off by quoting a village official: ‘In this village, half of them are my kids.’ Local propaganda officials protested, and the magazine issued a short apology for framing the report using a ‘boast made privately,’ although it did not retract any of the other factual claims in the piece.
4. Concocted news: Heilongjiang Morning Post 黑龙江晨报 and Life Daily 生活报 ran a story on 24 October detailing how a local man arranged to meet an online love-interest at a hotel only to discover that she was his daughter-in-law. The story had actually been fabricated by a reporter for a local TV station, and the two newspaper were penalized by press authorities for running the news without adequately checking it out first.
5. Vulgar content: Folk Legends 民间传奇故事, a magazine published by the Shanxi Literature and Arts Association, has a mandate to run folk stories and promote socialist values, but more often runs pulpy genre stories. Press authorities suspended it for three months for publishing material harmful to the healthy development of young people in a sister magazine, Scary Party 惊悚e族 (note: probably 惊悚の族), under the same periodical license, a regulatory no-no. The horror magazine’s been around since 2008, so why Press and Publications decided to act this year is a mystery.
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