Though holding relatively positive attitude towards new media as revealed in the survey, local journalists in Fujian’s press groups did not embrace the convergence with new media enthusiastically. The main change brought about with the convergence, after the establishment of the new media centre and the reconstruction of the news production workflow within Fujian’s press groups, is the journalists being currently expected to feed news to the centre so that the gap of contents for the new media outlets will be filled. During the interviews, directors, editors and journalists unanimously agreed that media convergence enhanced the requirements for timeliness and accuracy of news production as well as increased the intensity of journalists’ workload, but failed to radically alter the methods of selecting and writing news, thereby bearing no significant influence on journalists. A few journalists indicated their willingness to commit immediately to the convergence of news production; however, other journalists refused to cooperate with the new media centre.
The relationship between demographic factors with journalists’ attitude towards new media has been analysed in order to determine the variation among different types of journalists. The results of the ANOVA test indicate that gender and degree of education make no difference to the respondents’ perception about the changes or to their evaluation of new media; the type of newspaper makes no difference to the former but does influences the latter (F = 13.107, df = 1, p < .01). The results of the correlation analysis indicate that the respondents’ ages and years at work are uncorrelated to their perception but positively correlated to their evaluation of new media (r = 0.235, p < .001; r = 0.185, p < .01). Although local journalists in Fujian have generally recognised the changes brought about by new media to newspapers, those from metropolis newspapers were more inclined to provide a negative evaluation to these changes than those from party organs, whilst the older and more experienced the journalists were, the more positive evaluation they tended to provide to new media.
In general, similar to most local press groups in China, Fujian’s press groups have started advancing the convergence between newspapers and new media (i.e., in the news production area) only during the past two years without radically altering the existing system of the industry, that is, not touching the core zone of the media convergence–structure adjustment and business operation convergence. Therefore, the Fujian press industry makes a proper case of analysis for this study due to its typical nature in terms of convergence progress and path selection.
Starting from the emergence of online newspapers, traditional media departments, particularly their leadership, were rather ‘antagonistic’ against new media departments based on the concerns over newspaper circulation. Nevertheless, the competitive relationship between the two types of departments remained unclear because new media departments were situated in a relatively marginalised position inside the press industry. After media convergence along the dominant path was officially launched, original new media departments have been integrated into the new media centre. Vast financial support, manpower and material investments were put to the new media centres of the Fujian press industry, which had reinforced the position of new media department as a ‘rival’ to newspaper offices.
For the Fujian press industry, the local journalists’ attitude towards the new media is moderately positive, which is inconsistent with their negative attitude towards the convergence of newspapers and new media. In other words, the journalists’ pessimistic views on media convergence are not because of their dislike of new technology but a manifestation of the institutional, organisational and individual complexities within the local press industry. The demographic factors that affect the journalists’ attitude towards new media, including age, years at work and type of newspaper, have unique connotations under the Chinese media system.
Another explanation for journalists’ disinclination to provide news to the new media centre is the emerging conflict between the traditional and new media departments of the Fujian press industry. The main purpose of media convergence is to reconstruct the news production workflow and manifest the notion of ‘collection once, generation into varieties and dissemination in diversities’. Under the dominant path, the original departments of new media outlets are incorporated into the department of new media centre. From the perspective of newspaper office leadership, the timeliness of newspapers falls short of new media; thus, the latter is likely to further decrease the market of the former by intensifying the decline in newspaper readers. The leadership in Fujian’s press groups has been exploring various methods of press release, such as supplying basic facts to new media whilst providing details, background information and other in-depth content to newspapers, giving new media the priority to non-exclusive material but offering newspapers the priority to exclusive information. Discords occasionally occurred between the managements of newspaper offices and new media centre nonetheless.
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.
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Such standpoint has led local press groups to successively adopt diverse approaches over the past two years to cope with the challenge of new media. Among these approaches, the ‘extendedly ameliorated’ path, namely the implementation of incremental development of newspapers through flow reconstruction whilst retaining their original production system (Mai, 2012: 118), has become a common option of most local press groups. Although media convergence exerts an increasingly significant effect on these local press groups, relevant empirical studies remain limited at present. The current study analyses the perceptions of local newspaper journalists on and evaluations of media convergence through a survey and 20 in-depth interviews so as to disclose the effects of the dominant path of media convergence on local press groups based on the understanding of and reflection on the viewpoints of the ‘insiders’.
As Fimoculous points out, there have been American analogues to the renrou sousuo yingqing in some of the mass actions taken by 4chan: They too tracked down a cat abuser based on a video posted on the Internet. But the Human Flesh Search Engine is all the more important for filling in gaps in the Chinese legal system: whereas 4chan collaborated with police in their cat abuse case, China doesn’t have clear animal abuse laws, and so mass shaming had to come before legal action. Lest you decide that that sort of vigilantism is an entirely good thing, the Human Flesh Search Engine has also turned its ire on Chinese citizens who they don’t think are patriotic enough and journalists who call for moderation on Tibet.
The effects of the dominant path of media convergence on the mid-size press industry are the focus of this study. The path chosen by the press industry in other regions of China may differ from the dominant one in Fujian due to the nuances of power structure, level of economic development, size of press group and other factors. For example, the Nanfang Media Group’s choice of the fully transformed path has a bearing on its pioneering spirit and remarkable investment, which are derived from its distance from the centre of political power, the prosperity of the market economy in Guangdong and the surrounding areas, and the considerable assets from accumulation within the media group in the past decades (Yin and Liu, 2013). Nevertheless, Fujian’s case discloses the common challenges that the Chinese press industry will face as they further advance the convergence regardless of which path they choose. This study also develops an analytical framework based on the interplay amongst the state, media and journalists to be used in future research on China’s media convergence.