Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Crowd sourcing for Chinese investigative journalism

A chengguan in Shenzhen

Sometimes the boys and girls at ChinaSmack come up with the most fascinating stories from the internet in China. This is no exception.

This has one extra reason to mention it here, since it is an excellent illustration of how online mechanisms lead to a new style of journalism. It is not better or worse than traditional investigative journalism, but it most certainly leads closer to the truth, one of the aims of good journalism.

First, very short, the situation you see here. A chengguan, a municipal policing force, but in no way real police, has been catched by a crowd, after his colleagues left in panic. He has been beaten up, and the crowd is not really on his side, as it is mostly the chengguan's beating up smaller vendors.

The whole scene with a story and pictures is posted on the internet and then - in the comments - eye witnesses show up, telling the full story. The initial reporter is actually accused of making the chengguang almost look sympathetic, while he started to attack a vendor with a knife. (In other pictures, we see the vendor, who smashed the window of the Japanese car - detail! - with his first to grap the knife.)

So, we see here a story developing as we speak, with active participation of the crowd, sometimes giving outspoken opinions, but also adding facts to the initial story. This is new journalism, Chinese style, and a very positive development, I feel.
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