At work in the age of media convergence: changing paradigms of journalism in China

  • Dan Wang

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This thesis focuses on the impact of media convergence on the Chinese newspaper organization in the global text of advanced technology, through a rare ethnographic case study of a Chinese Communist Party media organization. Based on online and offline data obtained through seven months' ethnographic research carried out in 2016 at Party newspaper organization PaperX, including a special focus on the newspaper's police beat, it seeks to understand how the impact of media convergence is manifested in news routines and to discuss the implications of the impact on Chinese journalists. The research was designed during a time of change in China's media environment. On August 18, 2014, the country's leader, President Xi Jinping, also General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, gave a speech highlighting the "Directives on Boosting Integrated Development of Traditional and New Media" , a new set of guidelines to assist traditional media in handling the economic downturn that started to affect the Chinese newspaper industry from 2012 as the penetration of digital technologies deepened. In a similar way to Western media, Chinese newsrooms have needed to adapt to Internet structures in news production. Unlike Western media, Chinese newsroom development is subject to strong political guidance. Media convergence in China thus represents a culturally specific phenomenon within the global landscape of newspaper industry digitalization. The sociology of newsroom studies and the labor lens are the two main research approaches adopted to address the purposes of this thesis. The thesis uses newsroom studies to examine the impact of media convergence as a logic institutionalized into the newsroom structure, journalists' routines and practices, and the identity construction of journalists. Through the labor lens approach, the research explores individual journalists' praxis in the changing media environment in China and the constant shift between alienation, de-alienation and enlightened alienation. Two tensions continuously emerge throughout the research: old versus new values and practices; and individual versus structural needs of the profession. Findings indicates that media convergence logic has had multiple impacts reaching to the core of journalistic practice at PaperX. At the structural level, the re-centralization of media control closed down local support for PaperX, particularly the limited latitude previously granted to the newspaper by local government departments to "supervise" (serve as a watchdog), while financial support from the government (both local and central levels) saw the newspaper adopt an administratization of advertising operational strategy focused on soliciting and making government information service reports and announcements. Such structural changes appeared to have a paradoxical effect on journalists' perceptions of their job, with staffers being both insecure and apathetic about their current work and proud to be connected to government sources. The principles directing the organization and journalists in their routines and practices changed to become "official" oriented. Yet, journalists were found to project informal and invisible practices to reconcile their paradoxical feelings about their work. Meanwhile, at the identity level, journalists actively reconstructed their professional identity on social media to showcase the products of their work to government officials and managers on the WeChat Moments social media platform, and to display their close connections with the police, using these contacts as resources to boost the social authority derived from their identity. Overall, this study's contribution lies in its insights into Chinese newsroom production in the global context of advanced technology, in its deployment of ethnographic data gathering, and the use of the labor lens perspective to analyze journalists' relationship with their organization and media institutions. The documenting of PaperX's experiences in adapting to the new era of newsgathering in China could also shed significant light on the future development of Chinese Communist Party newspapers at the local level.

Date of Award25 Jul 2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorColin SPARKS (Supervisor)

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • Government and the press
  • Journalism
  • Mass media

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