The Onion recently ran a piece calling DPRK leader Kim Jung-un the sexiest man alive. While most of us giggled at it and forwarded it to our Korean expat friends, the Chinese state paper, the People’s Daily, ran with the news, and included a 50-photo gallery of Kim. It’s down now, of course, but the folks at Shanghaiist are no strangers to disappearing People’s Daily headlines and grabbed a photo. Then The Onion added a line thanking the People’s Daily for their exemplary reportage, comrades.
I wrote a few weeks ago about wild headlines, wild truths, and being unable to tell fact from satire, and started thinking about how the People’s Daily could have done this. There’s more to it than just shrugging and saying that the state-sponsored media is a joke.
When I lived in China, The Onion was blocked by the Great Firewall. I wonder if it recently become unblocked, or the People’s Daily staff were permitted to access portions of it for foreign research, but because of the Great Firewall, they were unfamiliar with it and lacked any context to determine credibility. This would be an appropriate cautionary tale about the difficulties of decent journalism with censored sources.
Unless a hardworking journalist cleverly got around the Great Firewall to get a great international scoop… Then it’s very sad.