2009 top ten news

Chinese media's top 10 fake news stories in 2009

By Qi Xiao (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-01-15 06:17
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Editor's Note: Of all the essential qualities that are required of a journalist, "accuracy" is without doubt the foremost one. "Getting the facts right" and "being faithful to the truth" are the least that a reporter can do to serve his or her audience. Some Chinese journalists, however, are blind to this cardinal rule. What they have committed are not just common errors such as misspelling of names or the wrong attribution of sources; they are fabricating news. In a profession where one's credibility could easily be compromised and one's career easily jeopardized by small mistakes, their standards of reporting, technical and moral, are appallingly loose. The Journalist Monthly, an academic journal published in Shanghai, in its first issue of 2010, shares its take on some of the flimsiest news stories in the Chinese media.

1. Chinese anti-piracy fleet sees off stalking Indian sub

2. China's first motion picture industry promotion law and film rating system to make debut in 2009

3. Money-shy tycoon holds contest to lay off four of five mistresses

4. Seventy percent of China's wealth is in the hands of 0.4% of the population

5. Obama to give iPhone and MacBook Air to Kim Jong-il

6. Son of former vice premier busted for drug use

7. Alleged gang godmother kept 16 young men for pleasure

8. Ratio of applications to hottest position in national civil service exam: 4723:1

9. Chen-Ning Franklin Yang confirms his young wife is pregnant

10. Heavy snow hit Shijiazhuang city, as high as a person (picture) 

 

1. Chinese anti-piracy fleet sees off stalking Indian sub

Chinese media's top 10 fake news stories in 2009

The Chinese navy was reportedly stalked by an Indian submarine like this. [File Photo] 

[Place of Publication] West China Metropolis Daily, Qingdao Morning News

[Date of Publication] Feb 18 and Feb 19, 2009

[Byline] Tong Qizhi

[Link to the original story] Not available/Deleted

["News"] In a widely publicized incident, a Chinese anti-piracy fleet off the coast of Somalia was said to have been stalked by an Indian submarine. After a tense standoff and intense maneuvers, the Indian submarine was forced to surface and left without any trace. The incident was first reported by Sichuan-based West China Metropolis Daily and Qingdao Chenbao (the Qingdao Morning Post), which was then reproduced by several major Chinese web portals such as Sina.com, QQ.com and CCTV.com. It was also widely reported in India.

[Really?] The incident turns out to be a ghost incident, and the Indian submarine a ghost submarine. According to Tong Qizhi, the author, who later confessed his fabrication, the story was just an amalgam of relevant information from the Internet. In fact, Qingdao Chenbao, from which the major Chinese websites republished the story, is also nonexistent. It should have been Qingdao Zaobao, or Qingdao Morning News. The two newspapers, West China Metropolis Daily and Qingdao Morning News, which first published the story, both issued public apologies, and the reporter was fired.

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2. China’s first motion picture industry promotion law and film rating system to make debut in 2009

[Place of Publication] Beijing Business Today

[Date of Publication] Feb 2, 2009

[Byline] Wu Ying

[Link to the original story]http://www.bbtnews.com.cn/whcy/channel/political63742.shtml (Chinese)

["News"] Tong Gang, the chief of the film bureau of China's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, claimed that China's first-ever movie rating or classification system would come out in 2009 as a vital part of the China Motion Picture Industry Promotion Law, although he dismissed the suggestion that the rating system would play a decisive role in promoting China's current film industry, according to a report from Beijing Business Today.

[Really?] While the remark is authentic, the problem is it is already 5 years old, as Zhang Yuhong, a correspondent from Beijing Youth Daily, pointed out in a Feb 7 report. He was told by the film bureau that its chief had never accepted any interview about film ratings during that period. What happened? It turns out that the story was just a repackage - with minimal tinkering - of another piece published by the Nanjing-based Jiangnan Times on Feb 24, 2004.

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3. Money-shy tycoon holds contest to lay off four of five mistresses

[Place of Publication] Bandao Metropolis News

[Date of Publication] Feb 15, 2009

[Byline] Luan Lei

[Link to the original story] Not available/Deleted

["News"] According to a report from the Qingdao-based Bandao Metropolis News, a tycoon who could no longer afford to have five mistresses because of the global economic crisis held a contest to decide which one to keep. The contest then took a fatal turn when one of the contestants was reportedly eliminated and drove the tycoon and the other four off a cliff in an apparent fit of anger, killing herself and injuring the other five. The story circulated widely in the Chinese media and on the Internet. Overseas media, including CNN.com, also reported the "news". (for CNN's reporting of the story, click here.)

[Really?] It turns out that the fake story was plagiarized from a similar one published in a magazine called Zhiyin, or Soul Mate, which is based in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province and specializes in melodramatic accounts of semi-fictional tales. Traffic police in Qingdao said they never handled the accident. In fact, the author just changed the names of the people involved, according to the editor in chief of the Bandao Metropolis News. The newspaper later issued a public apology, and the reporter was fired.

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4. Seventy percent of China's wealth is in the hands of 0.4% of the population

[Place of Publication] Journal of CPPCC etc.

[Date of Publication] June 19, 2009

[Byline] Lei Xin

[Link to original story] http://www.rmzxb.com.cn/zxtz/t20090619_258716.htm (Chinese)

["News"] Cai Jiming, a member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) National Committee, was quoted by the Journal of CPPCC as saying during a meeting that "a report from authoritative Chinese agencies shows that 70 percent of China's wealth is concentrated in the hands of just 0.4 percent of the Chinese population. The concentration level is even higher than in the US. It has greatly distorted China's domestic consumption."

[Really?] The remarks are, in fact, true. The problem lies in the source of the statistics. Cai did admit that he cited these figures in his comments, but he never said they are from "authoritative Chinese agencies". What he said was "according to an estimate from a certain foreign agency". Four major publications, including the Journal of CPPCC, were censured by the industry watchdog for reporting the "fake news", and the journalist was also criticized for failing to verify the figures and attribution.

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5. Obama to give iPhone and MacBook Air to Kim Jong-il

Chinese media's top 10 fake news stories in 2009

Photo/Reuters

[Place of Publication] Huanqiu.com

[Date of Publication] June 19, 2009

[Byline] Li Xue, Tang Na

[Link to the original story]

http://world.huanqiu.com/roll/2009-08/541805.html (Chinese)

http://world.huanqiu.com/roll/2009-08/541720.html (Chinese)

["News"] Kim Jong-il has got mail. It is no ordinary mail. It is from Barack Obama, Huanqiu.com, the official website of a popular Chinese tabloid Global Times reported. Citing a story from the (London) Guardian, the report went on to claim that Obama would send the leader of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) a couple of gifts - an iPhone and a MacBook Air. Apart from his email to Kim, Obama also reportedly published a number of personal emails to other public figures, including Michele Obama, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden. These are all part of "a unique experiment in Democratic transparency," the report said, citing the Guardian. Extraordinarily, Huanqiu.com reported the "news" twice - in two separate, but largely identical pieces, bylined by two different "contributing reporters".

[Really?] In this case, the source of the report is traceable and verifiable: it is from a piece of a Guardian column, All the President's Emails, by Oliver Burkeman. The only problem is that the column is a spoof column, with which Oliver Burkeman satirizes American politics and foreign affairs. But the Huanqiu.com report is a straight translation, failing to capture all the irony the original piece intended. Unfortunately, major Chinese portals - including Sina.com, Sohu.com, Xinhuanet.com and CCTV.com - all republished the "news". Apparently, some reporters failed to take their cue from Oliver Burkeman, when he wrote in the end of that piece: "Just to clarify, sarcasm is where you say one thing, but mean another."

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6. Son of former vice premier busted for drug use

Chinese media's top 10 fake news stories in 2009

Mug shot of Chen Mingliang. [Photo/sina.com.cn]

[Place of Publication] Antiquarian

[Date of Publication] 4th issue, 2009

[Byline] Xiao Xiang

[Link to original story] Not Available/Deleted

["News"] It was reported that Chen Mingliang, a district legislator for the Chongqing municipality, was arrested at a local hotel for drug use during a police sting operation on June 5, 2009. Billed as a successful antique dealer and a respected private entrepreneur in Chongqing, a report first published in an obscure bi-monthly magazine, Antiquarian, claimed that Chen was the son of a former vice premier, Chen Yonggui. The magazine is affiliated with the Sichuan provincial government. Chen Yonggui was the driving force behind the developments that turned Dazhai, a village in North China's Shanxi province, into a national model in 1964. He served as one of China's vice premiers from 1975 to 1980.

[Really?] The report got almost all of the facts right, including that the former vice premier did have a son named Chen Mingliang. The only problem is that the Chen Mingliang who was arrested was not this Chen Mingliang: they just happen to have identical names.

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7. Alleged gang godmother kept 16 young men for pleasure

[Place of Publication] The Time Weekly

[Date of Publication] Sept 24, 2009 (Online edition); Sept 28, 2009 (Print edition)

[Byline] Shen Hou

[Link to the original story]

http://www.time-weekly.com/2009/0923/4NMDAwMDAwMzc4Ng.html (Chinese)

Chinese media's top 10 fake news stories in 2009

["News"] Xie Caiping, Chongqing municipality's only female boss and sister-in-law of one of the city's former top police officers, was charged with organizing and leading a gang, running illegal gambling dens, harboring people taking illegal narcotics, illegal imprisonment and bribing officials. What is more eye-opening was her unrestrained lifestyle, said a report from the Guangdong-based The Time Weekly. According to the newspaper, she "retained 16 young men for personal pleasure". The news was widely circulated by the Chinese media and general public.

[Really?] The source of the story is said to have originated from a "gang-sweeping achievements exhibit" staged by the Chongqing police. However, the police spokesperson denied the claim, saying it was just a fabrication. A man who visited the exhibit also denied it, saying the information he got was that: "Xie Caiping kept a 26-year-old young man who is 20 years younger than her." No one knows how the number "16" was made up.

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8. Ratio of applications to hottest position in national civil service exam: 4723:1

Chinese media's top 10 fake news stories in 2009

Applicants attend the national civil service exam at a college in Nanjing, capital of East China's Jiangsu province Nov. 29, 2009. [Photo/Xinhua]

[Place of Publication] Beijing Times

[Date of Publication] Oct 16, 2009

[Byline] Zhao Peng

[Link to the original story] Not Available/Deleted

["News"] Although online registration for the national civil service exam officially opened to the public for only one day, the competition showed how tough it is. The highest ratio of applications to any available positions stood at a staggering 4723:1, the Beijing Times reported on Oct 16, 2009. It was a job at China's Disabled Federation (CDF). It was followed by a position at Wuxi Customs, where the ratio stood at 4653:1 and another position at Xiamen Customs, where the ratio was 3490.3:1, the report said.

[Really?] The same day, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security issued a statement on its website saying the report of the Beijing Times was irresponsible and misleading to applicants. All the statistics cited in the report, according to the statement, were last year's numbers.

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9. Chen-Ning Franklin Yang confirms his young wife is pregnant

Chinese media's top 10 fake news stories in 2009

Chen Ning Franklin Yang and his wife Weng Fan are seen here in this undated photo. [Photo/yule.com.cn]

[Place of Publication] China Daily website (Chinese edition)

[Date of Publication] Oct 28, 2009

[Byline] Anonymous

[Link to the original story] Not Available/Deleted

["News"] Chen-Ning Franklin Yang, the Chinese-American scientist who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1957, confirmed to the media that his wife Weng Fan is pregnant, according to a report posted on the Chinese edition of the China Daily website. Facing the cameras, an effusive Yang was all smiles, said the report, and a red-faced Weng Fan, 62 years his junior, admitted that she is indeed bearing Yang's child and has been pregnant for three months.

[Really?] Weng Fan's pregnancy is just a hoax. It was vehemently denied by the couple's relatives and friends. The couple themselves just laughed off the bad rumor. In fact, it is not the first time Weng Fan has been "pregnant" since she married Yang in December 2004. If all of the "news stories" are to be believed, Yang would have been a father of quite a few children by now. The website of China Daily deleted the "news" the same day it was published, citing dubious sources.

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10. Heavy snow hit Shijiazhuang city, as high as a person (picture)

Chinese media's top 10 fake news stories in 2009

Chinese media's top 10 fake news stories in 2009

[Place of Publication] New Express Daily etc.

[Date of Publication] Nov 12, 2009

[Byline] Anonymous

[Link to the original story]

http://epaper.xkb.com.cn/index.php?id=84720 (e-Paper/Picture/Chinese)

["News"] In its Nov 12, 2009 edition, the Guangdong-based New Express Daily posted a photograph on the upper right side of page A05, in which two people are clearing snow on a rooftop. The snow on the picture is piled up as high as a person. The caption under the picture reads: “Residents in Shijiazhuang city clears snow on a rooftop, Nov 11.”

[Really?] China has been repeatedly struck by cold fronts this winter. Indeed, Shijiazhuang witnessed the heaviest snowfall in November since meteorological recording began 54 years ago. However, skeptical readers and netizens found that the picture was doctored. The original one was posted on a foreign website, "The Chive" (http://thechive.com), on July 16, 2009, and the editors of the New Express Daily cropped its watermark. What the picture really shows is heavy snowfall near the border of Italy and Austria in December 2008, where the snow was as high as two meters.

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