Faked Newspaper Page Won Top Chinese Journalism Award

(Xinhua Net)

On August 29, a Class III photojournalism award was given to Yangzhou Evening News at the 17th Annual Chinese Journalism Awards.  This award came after the cited page first won a Class I award in the Best News of Jiangsu province before winning the photojournalism award in the national competition.  This Yangzhou Evening News page was covered the story of Yangzhou entering the United Nations Habitat Scroll of Honor, which does this thousand-year-old city a great deal of honor.

Here is the famous page (page A5 of the October 16, 2006 issue of Yangzhou Evening News) that will live on in the history of Chinese journalism (see yznews).

Here are the detailed photos of the ancient city of Yangzhou from Xinhua Net as shown on that famous page:

Isn't this wonderful!  Oh, wait!  There is a huge problem here.  If you consult the physical printed copy of the October 16, 2006 issue of Yangzhou Evening News at a library and you look at page A5, this is what you will find:

According to a post cited at the Pro States In Flames blog,

[in translation]

Based upon our discussion with people at Yangzhou Evening News, this newspaper has never received any Chinese journalism awards in its fifty years of existence.  In the past two years, the new publisher Wang Genbao wanted very much to win an award and made a promise of a 100,000 yuan award to any staff member who does so, plus a job promotion.  In this case, the person responsible for the entry was deputy chief editor Cheng Jianzhong.  A promotion would mean that he becomes chief editor and that is quite a temptation to forge a page for the purpose of winning an award.

As far as any impact on society, a faked page for the purpose of winning a journalism award is nowhere as serious as the Beijing cardboard buns case (see The Cardboard Buns Story).  Yet the mobilization of the entire resources of a newspaper to fake a page is undoubtedly lethal to public trust in newspapers.  This project required the cooperation of the reporters, editors, graphic designers, printers, checkers, computer workers, department heads, editors on duty, etc.  If the senior managers at the newspaper did not concur either explicitly or tacitly, this could never have happened.  When we the people learned about this, we were shocked at first and then we became angry.  Who can trust a newspaper where everybody over there worked to create a forgery?  Yangzhou Evening News has the slogan of "public reason, love and concern, quest for truth" printed prominently on its pages.  Isn't that supremely ironic?

In recent years, the Chinese Journalism Awards are becoming more open and transparent.  For example, in this year's competition, the award-winning works must be displayed on the Internet for seven days.  But if a forged newspaper page can win a Chinese Journalism Award, it shows that the openness and transparency are far from adequate.  First of all, the evaluation of the Jiangsu provincial journalism awards contains some 'black-box' operation.  Allegedly, the works were never announced during that competition and the several jurors just met and decided.  In practice, if the jurors had been more serious and consulted the original copy of the newspaper, the forgery would have been exposed.

In addition, the time allowed for deciding the national Chinese Journalism Awards was a mere seven days at certain obscure journalism websites that most citizens do not visit on a regular basis.  We recommend that the public notices of the Chinese Journalism Awards should be placed on the front pages of the news sections of the major Chinese web portals.  After all, these are the highest awards in Chinese journalism.  If other people used the same method as Yangzhou Evening News and continue to win awards, then the scandal gets a lot worse.