Thursday, September 27, 2007

Journalism Laws- China vs US

In the United States, reporters are protected by many laws. The main law protecting journalists and reporters is the First Amendment. The First Amendment states: “Congress shall make no laws abridging freedom of speech, freedom of the press, peaceable assembly, freedom of religious establishment of free exercise…” The freedom of speech and press are the two things that allow journalists to do their jobs without a constant fear of being arrested for what they report. This does not mean, however, that they are able to write whatever they feel like. There are some restrictions with topics. Things that could be considered defamation, such as libel and slander, are not allowed. Sometimes the line between what is ok for reporting and what would be better kept to the reporter is not very clear. Reporters have found themselves being arrested for things they wrote, even when they felt they had done no wrong.

Zhao Yan is one of the most recent reporters who were arrested for one of their stories. Yan is a Chinese researcher for the New York Times. He was arrested in 2004 and served a three year sentence in Beijing, China. Initially he was charged with writing a report that then-leader Jiang Zemin's planned to step down as head of the military. Yan was acquitted of this charge, but later convicted of fraud. He was accused of taking $2500 from a man and promising to reduce that man’s prison sentence.

Had Yan been in the United States and tried printing the article, it is questionable whether his story would have been printed. It did deal with the military leader stepping down, but the Chinese were not at war during that time. A story about the leader of the military stepping down would not have that much of an impact on national security. Looking at it that way, it is likely his story would have been printed here and he would not face the prison sentence. However, because he was on Chinese soil, the protective laws he has here in the United States, did not carry over.

Yan was just recently released from prison and is glad to be back with his family. He plans to stick with his career in journalism.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Paper versus Online

Many of us are aware of the transition newspapers are going through, that is, the transitions from paper copies to online copies. In a world of convenience and immediacy newspapers are doing all that they can to keep up with their demanding readers. In our advancing technologically minded world, people want to know exactly what is happening the minute after it happens. Obviously newspapers are not able to keep up with this demand in their paper copies. By the time a paper came off the press, it would already be outdated. By posting information on websites, newspapers can offer readers the most up to date information available. All this leaves us at this question: is anyone still picking up the daily paper and reading through it?

A recent article from Business Reporter focused on Canada and the shift from paper copies to online copies occurring there. A study done by the Newspaper Audience Databank, Inc (NADbank) found that about fifty percent of adults are reading a newspaper on a daily basis. Another seventy-five percent of people stated that they read at least one newspaper during the week. The newspapers being read were actual paper copies, but the study also looked at people who were getting their news online. Twenty percent of adult citizens in Toronto stated that they got their news from online. While this percentage seems low compared to the fifty percent reading the daily paper copy, it is on the rise. More and more people are choosing to get their news online for a variety of reasons. Could this increased traffic to online newspaper sites mean the end of the daily newspaper? Probably not for a while, but it is hard to know with the way things have been going. Humans’ need to have the most current news immediately after it is available is causing a huge shift in the way news is being reported.