Interventionism with Chinese characteristics: Exploring the role performance of People’s Daily and Southern Metropolitan Daily

Haiyan Wang, Colin Sparks

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paper


This paper reports the interim findings of the mainland China component of the study. National news reports in two papers, People’s Daily (PD) and Southern Metropolitan Daily (SMD), were examined for two constructed weeks during 2013. The titles were chosen because they are usually taken as representing the extremes within the spectrum of possibility open to Chinese media. People’s Daily is an official central Party organ that can be taken to articulate the canonical views of the leadership. Southern Metropolitan Daily is a provincial level commercially-oriented newspaper that has frequently been censured for its critical views. Apart from their contribution to the overall study, these findings represent the first attempt to provide quantitative empirical data about the content of these newspapers. While the differences have often been remarked, and the views of journalists have formed the basis of several studies, there is so far a dearth of material detailing the exact nature of the differences.
In the study we found strong evidence that both titles fall within the “interventionist” role although there are important differences in how this is achieved. PD had a higher number of indicators of the model than SMD, and the difference was statistically significant. None of the other roles were strongly represented in either title and the “civic role” was absent. SMD was statistically more likely to embody both the “watchdog role” and the “infotainment role” than PD. When groups of topics were analyzed, economic reporting was the main site of the interventionist role, while the watchdog and infotainment roles were most present in Police and Court reporting. Environmental reporting was most important for the service role.
The results provided evidence of some important differences between titles both with regard to the ways in which they embodied the roles and in their journalistic practices. While political and economic news were the main topics in both titles, SMD was significantly more likely to carry material about police and court affairs and about accidents and disasters, confirming its status as a more “popular” title aimed at the general reader. PD, as a national level newspaper, deploys more resources and its stories are more likely to be sourced from its own reporters, while SMD is more dependent upon wire stories, mostly from Xinhua. This means that the overall results for SMD do not necessarily represent the practice of its own journalists. In order to explore this, we broke out the stories sourced from SMD reporters from the overall figures and found that there are important differences between the two. As regards the overall roles, PD stories are significantly more likely to express the journalists’ own opinion than those of SMD staffers, who tend more to offer interpretations of the news. With regard to political news, the major category in both papers, SMD journalists are significantly more likely to offer interpretations than are PD journalists. SMD journalists’ work is more likely to embody the watchdog role.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2015
Event65th Annual International Communication Association Conference, ICA 2015: Communication Across the Life Span - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Duration: 21 May 201525 May 2015


Conference65th Annual International Communication Association Conference, ICA 2015
Country/TerritoryPuerto Rico
CitySan Juan
Internet address


Dive into the research topics of 'Interventionism with Chinese characteristics: Exploring the role performance of People’s Daily and Southern Metropolitan Daily'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this