Chinese journalism graduates - entering a challenging occupation

TitleChinese journalism graduates - entering a challenging occupation
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Dombernowsky, L.
Affiliation (1st Author)Aarhus University
Section or WGJournalism Research and Education Section
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeJRE W3b
Slot Code (Keyword)JRE W3b
Time of Session14:00-15:30
Session TitleInformation, Journalism Education & Industry Requirements Theme V: Generic Studies of Journalism
Submission ID5802

As important providers of information, analysis of current events and debates journalists are subject to high expectations regarding their professional values. Also in China journalism is considered to be more than merely a career, it is construed as a occupation that builds on personal commitment to both serve society and political interests. This paper is concerned with the values of Chinese journalism graduates who chose to become journalists after graduation and not web-editors or PR workers for government offices and private companies as many of their fellow students. Recently graduated they have entered a media market that has become increasingly more competitive since the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in 1979 allowed media to fund themselves through advertisements. A development that has pushed for changes in the relationship between the state and the profession of journalism. As a part of this media landscape in transition, the young generation of journalists are negotiating their own professional values between party line and public interests. This paper is based on in-depth interviews with 35 Chinese journalism graduates from five high-ranking universities in Beijing and Shanghai. The journalism graduates have been interviewed while still under education and again after they entered the occupation as journalists. The study is an attempt to reflect the young journalists’ self-perceptions and evaluations of journalistic performances. I suggest that this as a useful measure for their motivation to enter the occupation. The study finds that the young journalists adhere to wide spectra of professional values among. Some argue for journalists’ obligation to serve the state in maintaining political stability and only report what is officially confirmed; others emphasise journalists’ responsibility to strive for professional autonomy to decide what to report based on news values and as long as this does not harm political interests. And finally some young graduates call for journalists’ responsibility to supervise the government and struggle to uncover the truth in order to advocate for public interests without regard to the government line. Despite this variety of professional values, they agree that journalism plays an important role in society. The study concludes that professional motivation is not enough to make young journalists stay in the profession. There is a strong tendency among young journalists to consider changing career after gaining only a couple of years of experience as journalists. They have different reasons to opt out of journalism. Some ended up in journalism as a coincidence rather than of personal interests and thus do not see themselves staying in this field for a life time. For others the relatively low wages and the irregular working hours are simply too unattractive compared to other jobs. But more worrying is the tendency that political constraints and limited autonomy to do reporting make some newly graduated journalists find the job troublesome, dangerous or even pointless.

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