Thursday, July 24, 2014

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U.Va. to Host Panel Discussion on Journalism in China

Three international journalists will examine covering China in the digital age during a panel discussion at the University of Virginia on Friday. The panelists will examine the ways in which technology has changed the news that comes out of China, where the government desires tight control of media messages.

Covering China in the Age of Information” begins at 3:15 p.m. in Clark Hall, room 108, and features Susan Jakes, editor of the Asia Society’s ChinaFile blog, Melissa K. Chan of Al Jazeera English, a Stanford Knight Fellow, and Isaac Stone Fish, the associate editor of Foreign Policy magazine.

The event is free and open to the public and there will be time for audience questions.

In the past, there were only a handful of Western news agencies with reporters in China, and much of the news about China consumed in the West came from those sources, said Charles Laughlin, director of U.Va.’s East Asia Center, who will moderate the discussion.

But the digital revolution has sparked a proliferation of news out of the country, much of it driven by online news sites, blogs and social networks, Laughlin said. “Some of these new journalistic sources are giving us a much more nuanced and sometimes much clearer view of what’s going on in China,” he said.

Friday’s event is a chance for the panelists to talk about these changes and what they could mean for the future of journalism in China.

The idea for the event came to Laughlin last year when the Chinese government deported Chan. It was the first time in 15 years that China had failed to renew a journalist’s visa without apparent legitimate cause, and Laughlin was curious about the reason for it.

“Melissa was reporting on things the Chinese government wouldn’t have wanted journalists to know about: illegal jails, human rights violations and other things,” he said. “It occurred to me that she’s representative of this new generation of journalists who are making use of social media and the Internet more, and that they are also much better able to manage themselves in the context of contemporary Chinese culture and society.”

In past decades, reporters from the few news outlets that covered China were often unable to speak the language and had difficulty accessing and participating in the country’s everyday culture, Laughlin said. That’s not true of the emergent generation of digital journalists covering China, he said. 

U.Va.’s East Asia Center, Asia Institute, Department of Media Studies and Virginia East Asia Society are cosponsoring the event with the National Committee on United States-China Relations.

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