One of the fifty five images used by the People’s Daily to illustrate their story about Kim Jong-Un being named The Onion‘s Sexiest Man of 2012.
Yesterday we highlighted an embarrassing gaff by the People’s Daily in which China’s paper of record reported an Onion story, “Kim Jong-Un Named The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive For 2012”, as if it was a straight, non-satirical news story.
The Associated Press managed to get the Daily‘s editorial staff on the phone to ask them in person what the entire web by that point was practically screaming, “Are you fucking serious?” It would appear that they are.
“We have realized it is satirical,” said the editor who works on the site’s South Korea channel, one of the three channels where it was posted. He refused to give his name. When asked whether editors knew the Onion piece was satirical when the People’s Daily item was first posted, he declined to clarify, but added that they picked up the news after first seeing it on China’s state-run Guangming Daily website.
He said that he hoped the incident wouldn’t draw too much attention.
Alexa Olesen, again for the Associated Press (who were doing real reporting on this story while the rest of us were busy pointing and laughing), explains how the gaff came about:
Hong Kong media picked up the piece by U.S. satirical website The Onion a week ago while explaining to readers in Chinese that it was a farce. But from there, it jumped over the Great Firewall and landed into the official, irony-free Chinese media.
When Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV website, ifeng.com, ran its story on its fashion channel on Nov. 21, the story’s second paragraph clearly stated: “The Onion is a satirical news organization.”
But, when state-run Yangtse.com picked up the Phoenix piece a few hours later, it had morphed into straight news. The piece never mentioned that the original was a joke, instead plucking comical reader comments attached to the Phoenix story and running those.
Five days after the Yangste piece, Beijing’s Guangming Daily website took the story for a spin, trimming its length and citing Yangtse.com as its source. The Guangming piece was still online Wednesday and the story’s editor told The Associated Press that she had not realized it was a joke until the AP called.
The editor, Wang Miaomiao, said she wasn’t worried about the gaffe.
“Even if it was satire, the report itself was true. The content is not made up. Also, we have to go through a procedure to take something down from the website,” Wang said. “In addition, it is not a fabricated report, and it does not jeopardize society.”
Over at Beijing Cream, Anthony Tao is perhaps overly kind to the People’s Daily, reminding readers that Onion ‘reports’ have fooled other media organizations in the past. However, as with the public relations handlers of every celebrity ever made of a fool of by Borat, a simple web search for ‘The Onion’ would quickly reveal the true nature of the beast.
At Shanghaiist, where editorial standards are considerably more relaxed than at a national newspaper (or, at least, we assumed they were until this), we frequently come across China-related reports that seem either too good or too bad to be true. If there is only one source for a story it is common practice to investigate exactly who that source is, be it Falun Gong activists, Tibetan campaigners, or simply conspiracy theory nuts; typing the name of the organization into Google takes all of 5-seconds, and keeps us from (hopefully) having egg on our faces, let alone the industrial sized battery farm load of chicken embryos currently on the face of the People’s Daily.