Daily Archives: July 5, 2014


POLITICS – SCMP: A Much-Needed Institution Missing A Golden Opportunity 8

Little Eye on Big Media, Hong Kong

A multi-part series

‘Little Eye on Big Media’ Special Series: [Part 2: Op-ed, click here for part 1] There is no other newspaper on Earth better positioned than the South China Morning Post to provide coverage of this century’s most important story – China’s rapid rise. Historically, the Post has been the ‘newspaper of record’ for Hong Kong and is better placed than anyone else to observe and analyse Beijing’s growing power and influence. It has over 110 years of experience, is located in the one corner of China that does not restrict the press, and has a newsroom full of multi-lingual journalistic talent to call upon.

Weak spots
The newspaper has, rightly, bagged many awards for excellence in reporting but, like any other media group, has certain pressure points. Critically, for the SCMP – its weakness is often China. The SCMP’s Malaysian owners have extensive business interests across the mainland and stakes in Yurun Food Group, Shangri-la Hotels, Kerry Properties and several transport companies. This, alongside suspicions of direct – or indirect – pressure from Beijing and ambitions to expand across the border, has led to a well-documented watering-down of its criticism of China.

Whilst superb critiques of mainland affairs are still printed every week, any irregularities are alarming as Hong Kong has dropped 27 places since 2010 to 61st on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. It sits at 74th on the Freedom House ranking, now deemed ‘partly free’, behind Mali. Earlier this year, the Committee to Protect Journalists produced a special report this year on Hong Kong’s “cancerous” spate of self-censorship, making reference to the SCMP. Amidst violent attackscyber attacksboycotts and threats, we may be left with only the Apple Daily, a tabloid, as the last paper willing to scrutinise Beijing.

South China Morning Post (SCMP) covers

Worth saving. SCMP through the decades.

Wasted opportunity? 
But the SCMP has a choice and, perhaps, a golden business opportunity. It could leverage the talent, reputation and unique place it has in China to position itself as the ‘go-to’ international news wire for trusted news from the mainland. Instead of relying upon state-run news agencies, media organisations around the world could subscribe to SCMP’s dependable news feed, paying a premium for independent reporting, free from interference.


MEDIA WATCH – Exclusive: SCMP Staff Clash with Editors Over Tiananmen Censorship 15

Little Eye on SCMP

A multi-part series

For context, please refer to ‘Editor’s Note‘ below and Part 2: Op-Ed.

‘Little Eye on Big Media’ Special Series: An investigation by Hong Wrong has uncovered a culture of self-censorship by reporters as well as editorial interference from senior staff at the South China Morning Post. It has also been revealed how staff resisted an attempt to scrap an acclaimed multimedia project on the Tiananmen Square massacre in the final moments before publication.

Whilst no-one at the Post was willing to speak on record, the blog interviewed several current staff members on the condition of anonymity. Journalists complained of poor morale, a high staff turnover and a rise in instances of sensitive stories being scrapped, diluted, ‘buried’ or removed – all under the leadership of Wang Xiangwei, the Post’s first mainland-born editor.

The blog learned that most articles are still published without hindrance. The degree to which a report may be distorted depends on the sensitivity of the topic, the time frame and which editors are involved. One source spoke of how some reporters writing critical pieces involving the mainland exercised an “excess of caution”, bypassing what they knew to be a better angle for fear of conflict with the management. However, the blog was also told that, in some instances, sub-editors attempt to moderate skewed stories before publication.

On other occasions, pieces that feature criticism of the local and national governments may travel back-and-forth between writers and senior editors, who will adjust how the story is framed and insist on more ‘balance’ or emphasis to highlight the authorities’ point of view. Controversial stories may be ‘buried’ deep within the print edition, or never make it past the online edition. In some cases, stories have been removed months later – without public explanation – from the website.

There was no evidence that staff were being formally instructed on what to report on, but Wang and deputy editor Tammy Tam allegedly “discourage” writers from pursuing certain stories, leading some to fear for their jobs or threaten to quit.