What’s Next?: Creativity in a Government Mandated Territory

BBC News – Q&A China’s Newspaper Industry


American media (newspapers, radio, television, etc.) is able to thrive because of the diversity of content that they are free to produce, protected by the 1st Amendment. We forget, however, that in other countries like China, the ability to create and produce original pieces is an unchartered territory given the strict limitations enforced by government–something that leaves the public with a misrepresentation of reality both in and outside the country. However, as the BBC reported earlier this month, many Chinese newspapers are now on private (rather than government) sponsorship which pushes them to really listen to readers’ needs and respond. How this dictates the content that is produced is comparable to American media, with a bigger focus on arts & entertainment as well as culture. However, any content that is produced in China must go through the government first before being published–which limits the overall originality of the article.

The article goes on to talk about just how big the circulation in China is regarding newspapers. While in much of the Western world circulation is dying, for China it has gone up. There seems to be a strong need for the distribution of information to its massive population. They give one really interesting example of a the Reference News publication, distributed by the Chinese government, as having a three million reader circulation–whereas the Wall Street Journal has a circulation of two million. This need for information is helping to fuel a healthy newspaper economy, but the information that is circulated is very different to that of say the United States or Britain. Every piece that is created must be approved by the government before being published–and as many Chinese journalists have seen, much of their story gets edited or censored due to strict guidelines and regulation enforcement.

It’s interesting to see an environment where newspapers are actually flourishing in print, rather than heading towards online, but having to adhere to such strict censorship. It makes me wonder how much demand there will continue to be for such filtered information, and whether the circulation would increase or decrease if government approval was taken off. A great part of the article that is the look into how some journalists, who earn practically nothing in China, are forced to take bribes from sources to write a story in a positive light, just to bring home some extra money. It’s certainly not that farfetched off of American media, where the same has also been known to be done on occasion.

Regardless if government mandated regulations be taken off, which the probably won’t, it’s fascinating to see a part of the world where print is still thriving and has a future–whereas in America it’s quickly diminishing.

This is one of the spread’s of China Daily News. It’s one of the only English language newspapers produced in China and has a circulation of about 2.5 million, about 500,000 more than the Wall Street Journal. I thought that this spread was really eye-catching because of the use of whitespace–which is often uncommon in newspaper design in the Western World. You’re often taught to use the whitespace because of so much information that needs to be covered. But if you see here, and perhaps a result of government editing, but there is a fine amount of white space that piques an interest from the reader to really take a closer look. The layout itself is quite captivating for a newspaper, much unlike what you will see here from such publications as The Washington Post or The New York Times–which tend to follow a very similar pattern of clean lines and more text than images. This spread really takes a focus on graphics and less on the text, bringing the eye to the images first rather than the text. The spread is very modern, which is especially interesting given the antiquated government approval that the publications have to adhere to. Their use of color and hierarchy is something I was not expecting–it’s very creative but simple to follow as well.

Edmond Sun – Why Doomsayers are Wrong About Newspapers

Newspapers are in a rut, everyone knows it. The problem is not however that they they are having to shift from a print to a digital world, rather, as Caroline Little points out, it’s how they fuse them together to really maximize revenue that will determine whether or not the newspaper can stay running.

I thought this was very informative critique of not only those who say that the print world is dying, but why most of us tend to believe that rationale. We see a world that is driven by the internet and smart phones. Where you can get information at the tap of a finger. As Little notes, it scared the newspaper world because print is delayed information–and in a world where that content is needed immediately, they felt left behind.

Her opinion however, by showing providing numbers in recent polls, is that newspapers are not dying–they just need to find a way to really create a trifecta of their distribution of information–through the internet, mobile and most importantly print. She says that while the majority of readers get their information from technological mediums, it’s through print that, “Consumers still value quality journalism by trained reporters and informed judgments by editors.” She doesn’t say that you can’t find that through the online realm for example, but it’s one of the elements of where newspapers thrive and perhaps the digital one has not yet found its footing.

I agree with Little in that print is not dying, it’s just having to find a new way to work cohesively with its new counter parts. It can use them to their advantage to really maximize audience attraction–not just relying on print but using it as a stepping stone into the digital realm. It can be hard to let go of what once was, a print-driven world. But failing to do so will only further make that world disappear rather than find a new use for it.

The Edmond Sun, Oklahoma’s oldest newspaper, is just one of the many that is producing less in print and finding a way to maximize their digital avenues–not forgetting though that print still has value. I thought this layout was really valuable because of the way it’s laid out. It seems to be like any regular newspaper opinion layout, more text than images, but the way they’ve constructed it is very instructive. I like that while there seems to be a lot of text, they’ve made use of headlines and images to really separate an overabundance or clogging of it. The image is really the first thing that grabs your attention, and in an opinion spread where the opinion is the most important, that’s really interesting. Their challenging the readers’ mind and asking them to really take a look at the whole page before embarking on one of the columns. And even though it’s Oklahoma’s oldest newspaper that is trying to fuse together with a digital edition of the paper, it still exudes a very clean layout that emphasizes the content as valuable and worthy.

Natalie Caceres


  1. Love the articles you found. And I always love to hear more reasons why print is important. Although your examples were fairly conventional, your critique/commentary was right on. Good work.

  2. The article about the news media in China makes me really appreciate the fact that I’m studying journalism here. It would be nice if newspapers were as popular here as they seem to be in China, but I think I would take freedom of the press over that any day if it came down to it.

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