67 The side with higher audience costs is less likely to back down in a foreign crisis and therefore able to signal its intentions to other states more credibly than states with lower audience costs. Fearon, J.D., “Domestic political audiences and the escalation of international disputes,” American Political Science Review, Vol. 88, No. 3 (1994), pp. 577–92. Weiss, “Powerful patriots: nationalism, diplomacy and the strategic logic of anti-foreign protest.”
After filling the gap in policy, advertising has significantly promoted its proportion in media revenue. As of October 1992, domestic newspapers that achieved financial independence had accounted for one-third of the nationwide total (Zhao, 1998: 50). Since then on, advocating and promoting economic development and strengthening of media industry have become a dominant agenda of China’s media reform.

The historical course of China’s media reform is coincidental with the intrinsic logic of the transformation in national political ideology from contradiction theory to economy-centric theory (Li and Hu, 2013). However, this situation does not mean that political determinism would suffice to explain the China’s media reform. The transformation towards media groups did not result in mere innovation in the size, structure and managerial ideal of the media industries but also the ‘self-consciousness’ of actively promoting economic gains and the tendency to transform capitalism, ownership and other concepts into the reasonable kernel of media reform (Li and Hu, 2013). These have transcended far beyond the scope of what ‘political correctness’ can explain.

Moreover, most journalists willing to provide news to the new media centres are from party organs, whereas the majority of the metropolis newspaper journalists resisted collaboration. To understand the reason behind such contrast, note that new media centres are governed by party organs in terms of administrative hierarchy and are completely independent of metropolis newspaper offices in terms of finances. Compared with the metropolis newspapers, the party organ has relatively few barriers to the new media centres and a high degree of resource sharing. Such disparity has resulted in an operational obstacle between metropolis newspaper offices and the new media centre. To the new media leadership, this obstacle is precisely the underlying reason for newspapers and the new media to continue to be integrated but stay incompatible. The pattern of this relationship affects journalists’ willingness to collaborate.

The last two sections show some potential changes in the dominant path of media convergence adopted by the local press industry. Existing studies indicate that institutional and organisational factors considerably influence the journalists’ perception of their professional roles (Tao and Zhang, 2014; Wu et al., 1996; Zhang and Wu, 2016). Long-term attention is equally worthwhile with regard to whether the future structural adjustment of the local press industry in the area of media convergence will change the journalists’ identification of their roles.
Two alternative paths are presently available for the local press industry to thoroughly address the issue of content for new media outlets. The first path is to remove the administrative hierarchy between metropolis newspapers and party organs, with the new media centre providing news to both newspapers and new media outlets for further editing. In this case, the new media outlets are not incorporated into the new media centre but remain at the same administrative level as the traditional media departments. Hence, the vertical communication between the new media centre and various new media outlets increases, yet the horizontal interaction between newspapers and new media outlets dramatically reduces. The second path is to insulate the newspapers from converging news production, with the centre producing content independently for new media outlets.
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.

Males and females accounted for 49.6% and 50.4%, respectively, of the total number of respondents. The respondents with a degree of and below junior college accounted for 1.8%, those with bachelor’s degree accounted for 83.5% and those with a master’s degree or above accounted for 14.7%. Among the respondents, 33.2% came from party organs, whilst 66.8% came from metropolis newspapers. The mean age of the respondents was 31 years old (M = 30.63, SD = 6.35) and the mean number of years at work was 8 (M = 7.62, SD = 6.50).
The survey (see Table 2) indicates that from the viewpoint of local journalists in Fujian, new media has generally expanded the sources of news and facilitated contact with news-related groups. However, new media has also raised considerably high requirements for journalists’ expertise and spawned fierce peer competitions. Moreover, the respondents relatively agreed with the influences of new media in terms of enhancing journalists’ knowledge about the audience, although they disagreed with the belief that new media has marginalised news gathering and editing. The respondents took relatively positive attitudes towards the overall influences of new media on news production.
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’.
The impetus for junior journalists to participate in the converging news production is the same consideration that prevents senior journalists from collaborating with the new media centre, that is, to achieve the balance between gain and cost. The industry and the journalists ‘inside the system’ (tizhinei) are likely to opt for political safety over financial return, whereas their counterparts ‘outside the system’ (tizhiwai) ascribe considerable importance to the latter than the former.
To encourage journalist participation, two newspaper offices in Fujian added ‘volume of news feeding to the centre’ in the their evaluation criteria for journalists’ work performance, and many other newspaper offices of the Fujian press industry stimulated the initiatives of journalists for collaboration with ‘remuneration’ (Gaofei) or ‘points’ (Gaofen). Motivated by these measures, a few journalists, particularly the young and junior ones, began to adapt to the working tempo of rapid publication and multiple ‘versions’ of a single story. Others, particularly old and senior journalists, had matter-of-fact reactions to such measures. From the perspective of the new media centre director and editors, the material rewards that failed to meet the expectations of journalists constitute the primary reason for the latter’s reluctance to participate. However, interviews with journalists revealed that their willingness to contribute news reports depends on the anticipated gains and the price that they may have to pay for such participation.
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The majority of the scholarly analyses of convergence under the culture-oriented perspective have focused on its effects on routines, skills and roles. Several studies indicate that media convergence has changed the routine of information gathering, editing and reporting within newsrooms (Phillips et al., 2009); made journalistic practices considerably stressful with the emergence of multiskilling (Wallace, 2013) and posed severe challenges on the traditional roles of news media, such as ‘gatekeeper’ (Williams and Delli Carpini, 2000) and ‘agenda-setter’ (Quandt and Singer, 2009), as the tendency of convergence between professional- and user-produced content becomes increasingly appreciable. Other studies that employed the same approach indicate that although journalists are confronted with multiple challenges, they do not necessarily take a negative stance to evaluating media convergence. Accordingly, the degree of media convergence (Saltzis and Dickinson, 2008) and size of a media organisation (Mishra, 2014) can affect the perceptions journalists have on convergence journalism, thereby affecting their attitude towards media convergence.
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.
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 early stages after the foundation of China, domestic journalists assumed the primary role of ‘propagators’. From the 1980s to the 1990s, China’s journalists have started to undertake other roles, such as ‘information providers’, ‘information interpreters’, ‘advocators’ and ‘profit makers’. Evidently, their professional roles have become increasingly diversified. In recent years, domestic journalists have gradually ‘returned to the essence of journalism’ in their selection of professional roles (Chen and Jiang, 2008). Most professional journalists have identified with the objective and neutral role of an ‘information provider’ (Zhang and Wu, 2014).
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.
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.
One of the goals of media convergence in the reconstruction process is to modify the journalist–editor relationship by veering from ‘journalist-centred’ to ‘editor-centred’, such that journalists shall mainly undertake the role of information gatherer, whereas editors perform the role of information synthesiser. Regarding real news production, most new media centre editors are recruited from the members of society who are familiar with new media but inexperienced in news gathering and editing; thus, they are mere ‘stevedores’ rather than ‘processors’ of texts. Given that editors lacked the required qualifications, journalists were forced to undertake additional tasks (e.g., verifying information and converting statements from frontline journalists into text) that should have been performed by editors.
On the event of the shipwreck in the Yangtze River last year, I sent (passengers’ identity numbers) to the editor-on-duty of the website. He said, ‘Tell me the number of (Fuzhou) people’. I told him he could roughly estimate the number by counting those identity numbers starting with ‘35’. He said, ‘You might as well help me count’. I was being busy on the spot. And I was expected to be the one managing such trivial matters! (Interviewee No. 14)
Only six days after the first Mop post about the video, the kitten killer’s home was revealed as the town of Luobei in Heilongjiang Province, in the far northeast, and her name — Wang Jiao — was made public, as were her phone number and her employer. Wang Jiao and the cameraman who filmed her were dismissed from what the Chinese call iron rice bowls, government jobs that usually last to retirement and pay a pension until death.