Exemplary Reportage, Comrades

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.

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6 Responses to Exemplary Reportage, Comrades

  1. Nicholas McDowell says:

    My theory is that the state media is trolling America. Or counter trolling as the case may be.

  2. bethie says:

    You have to understand a culture really well to understand when something is satire right? I mean other cultures sometimes seem really weird and sometimes seem like they must be joking but aren’t, so it’s pretty hard to tell when people in that culture are poking fun at their own culture. Though you’d think the fake weather described as, “how do we live like this?” would be a give away. eh.

    • Meg says:

      That’s what I mean with a lack of context. If this site was unblocked yesterday, you’d only get today’s headlines, through a second-language filter, and you wouldn’t have familiarity with archives of goofy headlines or other sites referencing The Onion. Some of the “Area Man Does Totally Mundane Things” articles might not be all that goofy through a second-language filter.

  3. Bill says:

    Or someone was being subversive. “What? That was a joke website? I didn’t know that!”

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