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.
The press groups in Fujian have adopted the extendedly ameliorated path of media convergence. Firstly, they hired a technology company to establish a platform for converging news production. Secondly, a new media centre was established. Thirdly, a group of editors from the press newsroom were transferred to the centre to handle the new media outlets, particularly the website, Weibo, Wechat and APP. Lastly, a process reconstruction of the news production was undertaken by uniformly importing information from multiple sources into the centre for processing and delivering to new media outlets.
Nevertheless, the resistance from journalists makes no difference to the convergence path of China’s local press industry. The tendency for senior journalists to be more devoted to converging news production compared with junior ones and the tendency for journalists from party organs to show a higher positivity towards contributing compared with those from metropolis newspapers both highlight the impact of institutional and organisational factors on the journalists’ intention and behaviour in collaboration.
Understanding why most interviewed journalists also asserted that the assumptions that ‘multi-skilled journalists’ who can write, photograph and edit is unrealistic (if not entirely unreasonable), and claimed that newspaper journalists should be differentiated from specialised new media journalists who will transform into expert-type journalists in the future by delivering objective, rational and in-depth reportage on a certain subdivided domain. In this conception, new media practitioners remain quite distinct from their peers from the traditional media. However, such a difference has undergone slight changes, that is, traditional media practitioners have begun to admit and accept the possibility that their new media counterparts may be professionalised in the domain of news production. Journalists are consulting about their roles in reference to new media, although they are more inclined towards constriction rather than extension when adjusting their professional boundaries.
Guānyú “Hàn-Yīng Yànyǔ Cídiǎn”: Xiàndài Yǔyán qīkān duì Luósēnnuò (Rohsenow) cídiǎn de píngjià shì “dàigěi rén yúkuài tǐyàn, yìyú shǐyòng ... wèi pǔtōng Yīngyǔ dúzhě kāiqǐ le Zhōngguó mínjiān zhìhuì de bǎokù ... duì rènhé jíbié de yǔyán xuéshēng hé rènhé xūyào jīngpì géyán de rén dōu shì jí jù xīyǐnlì qiě shífēn shòuyì de.” (89, 2005). Yóu Wénlín Yánjiūsuǒ (zhǐzhìbǎn de biānzhìzhě) kāifā de xīnbǎn ruǎnjiàn wèi xuéxí yànyǔ zhè yī bǎoguì zīyuán zēngtiān le xīn de wéidù. Ruǎnjiàn bǎnběn zhuān wèi pèihé Wénlín Hànyǔ Xuéxí Ruǎnjiàn 4.2 huò gèng gāo bǎnběn shǐyòng ér shèjì. Yōngyǒu Wénlín qiángdà de ABC diànzǐ cídiǎn de quánbù jíhé, yìwèizhe jiǎntǐ hé fántǐ Zhōngwén de dúzhě kěyǐ shíshí fǎngwèn gèzhǒnggèyàng de cítiáo yǐ tànqiú Luósēnnuò jiàoshòu jīngliáng fānyì de wēimiào zhī chù, bìng lǐjiě Zhōngwén yànyǔ gēng shēnkè de hányì.
From the viewpoint of local journalists, news from the Fujian press industry was originally highly homogenised and lacked competitiveness. After the three-phase censorship of new media was institutionalised, risks from converging news production declined, but the timely release of information was weakened and the opportunity for journalistic autonomy has decreased as well. When covering politically sensitive social events, the freedom of speech of the new media was equally limited relative to others within the press industry and was occasionally even more restricted than that of newspapers.
In the past when our Weibo and WeChat accounts were not taken over (by the new media centre of Xiamen Daily)… Journalists running to the spot would make an instant call to our editors, saying how a piece was on WeChat… Nowadays, the journalists no longer have such enthusiasm… Anyway, whatever the achievement is, they are not ours. (Interviewee No. 8)
Say (there is) a fire disaster, which is often reported as an explosion. We often rush to fire disasters, chatting and interviewing with firemen on the site, (to know) there are lots of detonations in fire disasters. Even if not all detonations correspond to explosion, people who have not experienced the scene would likely label the sound ‘Bang’ as explosion before recording in Weibo the ‘explosion’ of fire somewhere… (Journalists) have discrimination, which is something lacked by ordinaries. (Interviewee No. 2)
Moreover, the decline of influence on public opinion is definitely another key factor that triggered the convergence within Chinese press industry. It is fairly illustrated in Secretary-General Xi Jinping’s ‘8•19’ speech on ‘boost the convergence between traditional and new media, and completely apply new technology in innovating the forms of media communication to seize a commanding height in the field of information communication’ (Liu, 2014). This situation is relatively similar to that of the media conglomeration in the late 1990s, when the legitimacy of reform stemmed from the policy of making domestic media ‘bigger and stronger’ to pre-empt the anticipated foreign competition in the World Trade Organization era. Meanwhile, a majority of domestic press groups were established based on administrative decrees rather than on business demands (Chen and Lee, 1998). Eliminating ‘dispersion’ and ‘chaos’ in the public opinion domain is the key factor that catalyses both media conglomeration and media convergence.
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The definition of full-media convergence is similar to that of media convergence that was developed in light of current practices in Europe and the US. However, as Menke et al. (2016) argued in their comparative study of European convergence journalism, the processes of convergence depend on national and cultural factors, thereby resulting in different convergence practices within specific newsrooms. To gain an improved understanding of the current convergence in China, the factors that make China’s case substantially different from Europe and the US must be considered.