January 22, 2008

Chinese Journalism Students Look to Refocus University Newspapers

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For journalism students in China, fighting to get their voice heard in their own college newspapers can be a problem.
“[We’re working on] directing [our] purpose toward students,” Katherine Wei, a member of the Renmin University of China newspaper, said through a translator. “[We]’re still fighting for that purpose, to make it more student directed … more student focused instead of government [directed].”
Displaying an old copy of the paper, Wei exemplified the issue by pointing at a page covering news from the communist party. Another page focused on campus construction and its negative impact on students, which the editor felt helped balance out the impact of the government-directed news.
Seven of their eight departments are communist delegate-run, however, according to the campus life editor of Youth RUC, Renmin’s newspaper.
[img_assist|nid=26736|title=Global chat|desc=Students from five Chinese universities in Beijing discuss their campus newspapers with Sun editors at Renmin University in early January.Photo: Matt Hintsa|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
During a meeting between The Sun and five college newspapers in Beijing, questions about censorship of their papers verses The Sun triggered one of the staff members in the back of the room to close the door.
All of their content is read over by professors, who are employed by the government, before it can be published.
“Our newspapers are always overseen by the schools’ officials, so we can’t decide it all by ourselves. Every section has to have a faculty advisor,” Youth RUC President Hui Zhou said through a translator.
All five of the schools — Renmin, Peking University, Tsinghua University, Beijing Foreign Studies University and the University of International Relations — are located in or around Beijing. The newspapers were founded in the 1990s and, despite faculty supervision, are written and edited by students. Most of the papers publish every 10 or 15 days; Tsinghua University’s newspaper is published once a month. The newspapers from Beijing Foreign Studies, Peking and Renmin also produce videos.
The newspapers are supported financially by their universities, all of which are public. Their staffs have been trying to figure out how to make more money in an effort to become less financially dependent, and meet with each other to discuss financial strategies
“In truth, by negotiating a relationship with other newspaper programs we are doing better than ever before,” Zhou said. “But now still there is still much to be developed.”
Many of the advertisements in their papers are for on-campus events, but large companies also purchase more general ads. Overall, though, the student editors seemed concerned about the finances of their papers.
“Our newspaper is controlled by the university, so maybe our advertisements [are] limited [by that],” Lucy Wu, vice president of the Tsinghua University newspaper, said through a translator.
Zhou said a lot of progress has been made recently. [img_assist|nid=26737|title=Converse around the world|desc=Photo: Matt Hintsa|link=node|align=right|width=|height=0]
“I think we will be better and better,” she said.
All of the newspapers mainly write about events on campus and student activities. Youth RUC also has some political coverage and will feature general topics of interest that are not directly related to campus life.
“People are interested in using credit cards, so [we]’ll talk about that topic,” the Youth RUC campus life editor said through a translator.
At different times of the year, the newspaper will have a special focus. “For example at the beginning of the year [we] welcome new students so … new students is their emphasis,” he said.
An editor of Beijing Foreign Studies University’s newspaper said that they write about national and international news in addition to campus news.
“The purpose of this is to show our special character and express our university fully,” she said through a translator.
The papers from the University of International Relations and Peking University said they are also running special coverage for the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

For more on the Chinese university system, click here.

In Chinese, names are written with the family name first and given name last. In Sun articles, Chinese names are written in the English manner.