Today In Shitty Journalism: MSNBC Sources Foreign Correspondents Club Of China Email To Break News That Happened Last Week

The article in question was actually published yesterday, so please don’t be misled by the use of “today” in the title. It’s just an expression.

Some reporters got “assaulted” in Panhe, Guangdong, and though we don’t know the extent of anyone’s injuries (just a minor detail, right guys?), MSNBC’s “Behind the Wall” China blog decided to “report” on the incident, using a Foreign Correspondents Club of China email as its primary source (they don’t mention it’s an email; just a minor detail, right guys?). The title of the post? “Journalist beatings ease Wukan optimism.”

Huh. That’s quite an extrapolation.

But you know what other detail MSNBC chose to ignore? Oh, just that, according to the Shanghaiist, a couple of those journalists WERE COMPENSATED WITH 45,000 RMB.

The Shanghaiist doesn’t explicate, but we’re led to believe the journalists took the money. Maybe we shouldn’t assume that, but no one denies they did. But why would they have been offered so much in the first place? And by whom? What’s going on?

Forget about finding answers in the MSNBC story, which doesn’t even acknowledge that the Shanghaiist broke this news five days earlier.

Here, I need to remind everyone that this isn’t Jerry’s Travel Blog or Susie In The Middle Kingdom we’re talking about. This is a news organization that sees fit to lead off its blog posts with fancy, stylized bylines such as:

By Ed Flanagan, NBC News

Hey, guys: perhaps it’s time to get off your journalistic high horses. Just because you fancy yourself as “established” and old school doesn’t mean you’re above informing readers you ripped info from an email, and you’re certainly not above linking to other websites. Or you could have maybe at least tried to put in a call to some of the actors in this drama. Instead, we get the following graf of manure because you feel the print-world need to fit text to space:

To be sure, press restrictions in China have been relaxed considerably in recent years, but since last year’s anonymous calls for a “Jasmine Revolution,” local municipal and provincial governments appear especially sensitive to negative press and foreign reporting on so-called “mass incidents.”

Write what you know, right guys? A few foreign reporters traveling through the wrong neighborhood (“East Side pre-New Age Co-Op,” we called it) get — kind of predictably — tousled, and what’s the conclusion?

It’s unclear whether the Panhe attacks represent a government-driven reversal in strategy for dealing with foreign press coverage of mass incidents. It is nevertheless a stark reminder of the dangers of reporting local disturbances despite the optimism inspired by the peaceful resolution of the Wukan rebellion.

That’s fantastic. Way to fit a complicated, ongoing story featuring multiple factions with diverse interests and motivations into that perfect little box called your China Narrative.

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