Opinion / Editorials

Wake-up call for media

(China Daily) Updated: 2014-09-05 07:24

The criminal investigation into the website's "particularly big" blackmailing scheme sounds especially unsettling because it involves one of the most influential business media outlets in the country; one that has established itself as an authoritative source of industry information.

Besides probably landing a number of website executives and reporters in prison, the scandal will inevitably raise credibility issues regarding the media conglomerate 21st Century Press Group, of which is only its new-media arm.

However, the shame should not be taken as just's and its parent company's. It should be a wake-up call for all domestic media institutions to look themselves in the mirror.

What has done is not only against journalistic values and norms and beyond the bounds of decency. The shameless racketeering it has committed in collusion with public relations companies could have made itself criminally liable.

But the bigger question is, how many media institutions in this country have been unable to shun anything similar?

Maybe few have had's brazenness to conduct unclad extortion, threatening potential advertisers into cooperation with threats of "negative reporting". But how many have refrained from wooing or rewarding advertisers with "positive reporting"?

For some time, people have blamed "fake reporters" for such nasty tricks. But it turns out that such extorting in the name of "investigative reports" dedicated to exposing wrongdoings has turned into a lucrative business, despite the official crackdowns that have caught quite a few cheats who thrived on such a business.

Sadly they are not the only ones who desecrate our profession. What happened at indicates plummeting public confidence in the media is at least in part of our own making.

Swindlers can extort money from those who violate the rules thanks in part to the latter's knowledge or assumption that reporters do extort.'s alleged offense is nasty evidence that they have not got us wrong. It should remind us of the pressing need for industry-wide soul-searching over our commitment to journalistic values.

Abuse of the media's supervisory role is a dangerous sign of corruption in our profession, which is no less hazardous than that in public offices. Such corruption worsens the atmosphere of distrust and severely erodes society's moral fiber.

Mainstream media's easy access to offices of power and "market-oriented" media's special vulnerability to financial considerations are practical threats to journalistic integrity. But the fundamental values of journalism as well as journalists' role as custodians of conscience should never be compromised.

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