Debates on the social influence of information technology have constantly been conducted around the ‘technology and democracy’ theme. The introduction of information technology, particularly the Internet, was once lauded with immense optimism and was thought to provide journalists with substantial latitude of free speech. Unfortunately, the media convergence of the Fujian press industry clearly demonstrates that the tensions between politics and technology fail to generate significant journalistic freedom in the Chinese local press industry. In fact, the logic of technology has been incorporated into the political logic such that new media outlets have assimilated the structure and routines of traditional media. This tendency is not unique to the dominant path of media convergence but prevails in every local press industry that is in pursuit of converging news production. Accordingly, the effects of such development on the ecology of China’s journalism must be further explored.
After 2008, ‘full-media’ became a keyword with which scholars discussed China’s press industry. Studies that focus on the effects of full-media are categorised into two approaches: media economics and media performance approaches. The media economics approach generalises the experience and lessons of convergence practices and evaluates the influence of media convergence on newspaper development mostly from a business operation perspective by adopting case studies combined with the personal observation of researchers (cf. Tang and Cao, 2015; Yang, 2013). By contrast, the media performance approach analyses the method of content delivery on the new media platforms of newspapers as well as predicts (through content analysis) the influence of convergence on the progress of society’s democratisation from the media ethics perspective (cf. Huang, 2013; Cai, 2011).
For Western journalism researchers, media convergence generally refers to the ‘cooperation and collaboration between formerly distinct media newsrooms and other parts of the modern media company’ (Deuze, 2004: 140). Chinese scholars were considerably inclined to use the phrase ‘full-media’ (Quan Meiti) to describe the convergence process. Full-media, which is a term coined by Chinese media practitioners, implies a figure of oriental holism under the perspective of Chinese traditional philosophy (Ji et al., 2013). Mai (2012: 41) employed observation and in-depth interviews and defined full-media convergence as ‘a mode of structural integration of news production, dissemination and business operation on the platforms of new communication technology’.
Whereas the day-to-day operation of the new media outlets are gradually involved into the political orbit of the Chinese media system, there is a barrier to the convergence which arises from the competitive relationship between the traditional and new media departments for more resources and market rewards yet to be surmounted. The new media centre has difficulty in gaining the support of newspapers, particularly metropolis newspapers in content production, which may accelerate the adjustment of the administrative structure within the local press industry.
Wénlín Hànyǔ Xuéxí Ruǎnjiàn 4.0 bǎn bāokuò le yī zhǒng chuàngxīn de héxīn jīchǔ jìshù hé chuàngzuò gōngjù, yòngyú shūrù, chuánshū bìng xiǎnshì Unicode zhōng wèi bāohán de xīn zì, yìtǐzì, shēngpì zì. Zìxíng Miáoshù Yǔyán (CDL) shì yī zhǒng chǔlǐ Zhōngwén, Rìwén hé Hánwén (CJK) zìtǐ hé shùjù de gèng jǐncòu, gèng gāoxiào, gèng zhǔnquè de fāngfǎ, tā de chūxiàn jiějué le cāozuò xìtǒng hé xiǎoxíng shèbèi píngtái kāifāzhěmen xīwàng jiějué de wèntí. Wénlín CDL kě chǔlǐ 3000 ge zuì chángyòng zì, xiàoguǒ yōuyú Unicode, tóngshí wúxiàn kuòzhǎn le zìfújí, wèi shìjiè qítā de yònghù tígōng le gèngduō zìyóu hé biànlì. Yǔnxǔ zhōngduān yònghù zài 4 bǎnběn zhōng shǐyòng CDL jìshù, zhè wèi géxīn CJK gōngnéng pūpíng le dàolù. “Yīdàn zuìzhōng yònghù kāishǐ shǐyòng 4.0 bǎnběn de CDL chuàngzuò gōngjù, héxīn jīchǔ jíchéng de chǎngjǐng biàn de gèng qīngxī, wǒmen xīwàng wǒmen de shòuquán yèwù nénggòu yīncǐ dédào xiǎnzhù tuòzhǎn,” yíngxiāo fùzǒngcái Mǎkè Luóbùlǐ (Mark Roblee) rúcǐ shuōdào.
A total of 300 journalists from 11 newspapers (i.e., Xiamen Daily, Xiamen Evening News, Haixi Morning Post, Strait Herald, Fujian Daily, Strait Urban News, Fuzhou Daily, Fuzhou Evening News, Quanzhou Evening News, Southeast Morning Post and Strait Urban News (South Fujian Edition)) in the cities of Xiamen, Fuzhou and Quanzhou responded to the survey. After eliminating the ones in which over half of the questions were left unanswered, 274 copies of effective questionnaires were retrieved (completion rate = 91.3%). Two researchers input the data into SPSS19.0 and performed mutual proofreading to correct the errors in the manual input process. The findings were obtained through analysis of variance (ANOVA) and correlation analysis.
Last year or the year before, I went to the trial over a deputy mayor in Fuzhou. Only another journalist and I went to the whole course of the first trial. He (a newspaper department supervisor) demanded strictly at that time that the number of online figures could not exceed 500. Plus, the next day he scolded (another journalist) in a loud voice, ‘It’s too foolish of you to have (only) offered them the lead of the foregoing news. You should have cut out a bit from each paragraph. You giving these 500 figures to others, who would read the newspaper?’ (Interviewee No. 14)
4 Therefore, some observers suspected that “Anti CNN” messages were part of a larger propaganda effort to discredit reports that contradicted the official line of the state. See New York Times, 25 March 2008; Sueddeutsche Zeitung, 28 March 2008. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Qin Gang denied any direct links between the website and the Chinese government. http://www.chinese-embassy.org.uk/eng/zt/fyrth/t419160.htm, accessed 20 July 2008.
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Jenkins (2004) stressed that media convergence should be viewed as a ‘culture’ because it changed the relationship among technology, industry, market, product type and audience. By scrutinising the relationship between media institution and practitioners, the culture-oriented approach can facilitate the re-examination of the interaction mechanism between the institutional arrangement of media convergence and the logic of actors, as well as reconsideration of the social structure on a microscopic scale, thereby narrowing the gap between the media economics and media performance approaches.
The case study of Fujian indicates that what lies beneath the persistent tension between newspaper offices and new media departments is substantively a conflict of economic interest that results from the competitive relationship amongst various media outlets within the local press group since the period of media conglomeration. Adjusting the administrative structure cannot reduce this tension as long as the economic logic is not thoroughly challenged.