Environment Reporting in China: There Is Government Control and Strained Finances, but Coverage of the Environment Is Flourishing. (Environment Reporting)

By Yu, Sun | Nieman Reports, Winter 2002 | Go to article overview
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Environment Reporting in China: There Is Government Control and Strained Finances, but Coverage of the Environment Is Flourishing. (Environment Reporting)


Yu, Sun, Nieman Reports


In 1984, China Environment News was launched in Beijing. It is said that it was the only national newspaper specializing in environmental reporting in the world. At that time, environmental reporting was in its infancy and, in China, no other media outlets were reporting environmental news. People rarely heard the term "environmental protection." China Environment News brought to public attention national environmental policy, laws and regulations. It also exposed the polluting behavior of factories and disseminated environmental knowledge to the general public. Its mission was to promote environmental awareness and let people know of China's dedication to environmental protection. Due to its reporting efforts, China Environment News was honored with the "silver medal" by the United Nations' Environment Programme (UNEP) for its significant contributions in 1986. The next year, UNEP ranked China Environment News on the Global 500 Honor List. Now, in an effort to attract additional readers, China Environment News has added a weekend edition and more feature stories.

Reporting on People's Lives

During the past decade, environmental media have seen a great transformation and have flourished in China. Now environmental issues are covered by both broadcast and print media. Major media agencies at national and local levels have special reporters to cover environmental news and have columns or programs dedicated to the environment. In 1993, an environmental coverage campaign, "Across China Environmental Protection Centenary Action," was initiated. More than 6,000 reporters from news agencies at the national and local levels throughout China have taken part in this action.

Each year a theme reflecting the most pressing environmental problem has been selected for the campaign. Reporters send stories to their news agencies. This media campaign has been very effective in promoting environmental protection. Many resources have been provided for coverage of major environmental protection campaigns, such as resisting garbage from abroad and cleanup activities of the Huaihe River and Lake Taihu. Environmental reporting has also played an important role in supervising and changing the behavior of factories and enforcing the law. There are also some foreign environmental and nature TV programs being broadcast on China's national and local television stations. For instance, "Earth Story" is broadcast on a China Central Television (CCTV) station every night.

Environmental reporting in China has also seen some changes in reporting style. In the 1980's and the early years of the 1990's, environmental reporting in China was covered in a narrow sense and limited to coverage of three kinds of pollution--waste water, waste gases, and solid waste. It failed to pay attention to the central element of the environment: people. To clean the heavily polluted Huaihe River and Lake Taihu, local environmental bureaus closed many small paper mills and dying factories. When reporting this event, news media only focused on the environmental cleanup and failed to report on what the factory workers would need to do to survive.

In recent years, to adapt to readers' interests and needs, China's environmental media has broadened its concept to include this "larger environment." Reporters pay more attention to the lives of ordinary people and cover new topics, such as green food and ecotourism. For example, to conserve the ecological system of Daxinganling forestry reserve, in 1999 the Daxinganling Forest Corporation stopped felling trees. When CCTV reported this news, its coverage focused on the changing role of the corporation workers from lumbermen to tree-planters.

Journalists Interact With Government Officials

Unlike its Western counterparts, which are independent entities, China's media agencies are still regarded as the government's throat and tongue.

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