Zhang Zhi’an, professor with Fudan University’s school of journalism, and Dr Shen Fei of Hong Kong City University’s department of media and communication, compiled the first report covering mainland investigative reporters. In this they found that most of them are planning to quit in the near future, as they suffer from “burnout over intimidation”.
The risk of physical harm has many reconsider their career choice. As Zuo Zhijian, director of the feature department of the Guangzhou-based 21st Century Herald’s Shanghai office told the Global Times, some local authorities and special interest groups make reporters lives harder as they “become more adept at interfering with and obstructing investigative reporters”. But this might not come as a surprise as even government mouthpiece Xinhua reporters have it tough in China.
The report found that only 13 percent of the people questioned want to stay in their field for longer, while 40 don’t want pursue a career in this field at all. This might also be due to low incomes and heavy workloads that are part of an investigative reporters job as well as stringent requirements for journalists such as training in Marxist news and media theory.
But the report also showed that the the development of the internet has positively influenced press freedom over the past decade:
“Mainland investigative reporters became more connected with the help of BBS message boards at the beginning of the century and then more so thanks to instant messaging software and, most recently, microblogging,” Zhang said.
Many investigative reporters have used microblogging to update their investigations, search for contacts and appeal for help when in danger, he said.
“Microblogging has provided an open platform for the public to understand investigative reporters, to contribute to investigations and to supervise the authorities,” Zhang added.
By Nele Diels