Media's social duties
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-10-10 08:41

It is not a matter of whether one likes it, wants it or needs it. Social responsibility is something that anyone who is involved in the media industry should never shun.

At the World Media Summit yesterday, President Hu Jintao mentioned that the media must shoulder a strong sense of social responsibility. He added that the media's responsibility to society could never be overemphasized when its impact on world politics, economy, culture and other social sectors has increasingly widened.

It is absolutely true for a news organization to report the truth as much as possible. It is the very basic requirement of the media industry. But nowadays that is far from enough.

The rapid development of the Internet and multimedia technology has changed the way we live. We have never been bombarded with so much information from so many outlets as we do today. Under these conditions, people's ways of life, and even their understanding of a particular phenomenon, can be altered by the information they have received.

Media's social duties

Say, a person may pass on eating his or her favorite dish when they've read from a news report that the food contains an ingredient that is potentially harmful to health.

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Any newsworthy item with repetitive reporting may impact readers in unexpected ways since most gather their knowledge by reading newspapers, magazines, watching TV, surfing online or listening to radio reports.

When rural villagers first established township enterprises and grew in wealth as a result, various media outlets were reporting about their prosperity, but very few gave a second thought to the pollution that such low-level industrial enterprises may have caused to the environment.

True, the avalanche of reporting on environmental protection in the past couple of decades has contributed tremendously to people's awareness on the issue. But had the media anticipated the possible pollution some industries would cause, we might have done much better in environmental protection.

There are many more examples to show that the media's social responsibility lies not just in telling the truth. People need to know why something happens and why it happens. They need to be informed about what is behind a news event. They also need analysis to help them better understand an event or the development of an event.

President Hu is right that news organizations must strictly observe professional rules if they are to be accepted and respected by the public. They must report about the reality of the increasingly multipolarized world, the globally integrated economy and diversified culture in a balanced manner. That is what a news organization with a strong sense of social responsibility must and should do.

Rome was not built in a day. Chinese news organizations have achieved a great deal in the past three decades and have a lot of lessons to learn as well. The World Media Summit offers them a chance to learn from their foreign counterparts.

(China Daily 10/10/2009 page4)