Time for Chinese media to come of age

Updated: 2014-03-20 07:43

By Zhang Zhouxiang (China Daily)

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A message board on a Chinese website reads: "To our domestic media: can you do anything other than lighting candles?" Such complaints are all over Chinese websites because the Western media have been providing most of the key information on the missing Flight MH370, with the Chinese media playing second fiddle.

Time for Chinese media to come of age

The complaints are not groundless. The case of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, missing since the early hours of March 8, is just one example of how deficient the Chinese media are. Chinese media outlets seem to lag behind their Western counterparts, especially when it comes to timely coverage of big global events.

There are obvious reasons for the huge gap between the Chinese and top global media outlets. The New York Times website proudly says "founded in 1851". In contrast, the majority of China's mainstream media outlets were born in the 1980s.

It is hard to imagine Chinese media outlets, which are still in their 30s, challenging their US counterparts that have accumulated resources and know-how. Media outlets today need to mobilize enormous resources-communications and security networks, and business connections-to get the latest information on incidents like the disappearance of MH370. American media outlets can get information from US satellites, companies like Boeing, and even US overseas military bases, something that Chinese media outlets cannot.

But being relatively young is not the only reason why the Chinese media are lagging behind their Western counterparts. History tells us that the founding of almost every Western media giant was accompanied by a transformation in the world of communications-The NYT was founded in 1851, The Washington Post in 1877 and The Wall Street Journal in 1889, the so-called golden age of newspapers. And CNN was founded in 1980 when TV emerged as the new mass media.

These newspapers and news channels were founded at the "right time", and, after decades of fierce competition, have established a virtuous circle. Thanks to their high quality reports, they have become highly influential, increased their market shares and raised their profit margins, establishing the standard mode of survival as well as excellence.

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