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The first digital election debate comes along with the UK election in 2010. Both Facebook and YouTube join the online debate and provide an interactive platform for public to ask questions to Nick Clegg, Gordon Brown and David Cameron. The five main categories of the questions are: economy, health and education, foreign policy, law and order. Three party leaders provide video responses and users can vote for the best answers. Totally, over 5000 question submitted and more than 10,000 votes on the questions.

Speaking about the online debate, Facebook’s Director of Policy Richard Allan said: “The dawn of the digital election this year is a transformative moment for democracy in Britain. By allowing voters to cross-examine their leaders, these digital debates will put the voters firmly in charge. This marks a decisive shift away from the constraints of top-down traditional media.”

Politicians also take advantage of social networks to promote their campaign. To have a further engage with constituents, an increasing number of MPs open accounts on Twitter and Facebook, and upload video on YouTube as well. Another function of social media in election is to bring back voters between 18 to 24 years old.

However, some argue that Twitter and blog are not as efficient to be a political tool as people’s expectation. Firstly, few online users follow the irrelevant tweets from candidates, unless they publish something which journalists can find news value on that. Secondly, there is a limited number of candidates keep writing blogs, because they fear of posting anything they might regret or cause misunderstanding.

Facebook will add an “I’ve voted” button at the top of the News Feed for UK users over 18 on 6 May. Facebook will put the vote tracker at the top of UK users news feeds as “a convenient reminder to get to the polling station”. The same system was used to follow voting in the 2008 US Presidential election.

YouTube UK election channel

UK election 2010 page on Facebook

More articles about the influence of the Internet on the election:

UK general election 2010-online journalism is ordinary from Online Journalism Blog

Welcome to the first e-elction from Guardian

Although the Internet environment in China is still not totally free, and certain websites are blocked such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and WordPress, Chinese journalists take advantage of the online platform to build up new websites to provide different media service. Umiwi.com, established by an ex-CCTV producer Wang Lifen, is a latest case of the new online TV site.

Wang Lifen, a former CCTV producer and hostess, created one very popular Chinese reality-TV show called Win in China, teaching the Chinese how to success in business. In March 2010, she resigned her position with CCTV and started her own online TV business. According to Wang, Umiwi will not allow user uploads of video content, and instead, during this initial period of development, rely on self-produced or live broadcasted content, and will consider purchasing high-quality video content in the future. Wang said that while Umiwi had invested into content production, the site’s operating costs are currently quite low. Umiwi primarily earns income via advertising revenue.

The slogan of Umiwi is to grow up with young people together. It mainly targets young Chinese people who have received relatively high education, and have passion to set up their business and want to learn experience from some successful businessmen. To offer an opportunity to communicate directly with CEOs from top companies, Umiwi is planning to create a series of programming modeled off of Warren Buffett’s lunch auctions. The celebrities selling their time in Wang’s auctions were chosen by netizens’ nomination and voting.

The first auction is for 3 hours with Giant Interactive CEO Shi Yuzhu, a leading online game developer. The bidding period is between March 15 and June 15. As soon as the bidding started, it drew a competition on the website. In May, the highest offer was nearly 2 million yuan (£200,000). According to the website, all the money generate from this auction will be donated for the drought in south-west China.

The Third Session of the Eleventh National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Third Session of the Eleventh Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) was end on 14 March in Beijing. The two sessions are the most important political events in China. This time, the Internet plays an outstanding role in both promoting democratic politics and reporting the latest news.

In the first place, the Internet has become a bridge for the high-level decision makers to know the opinions from grassroots. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao talked online with public before the opening of Two Sessions. He had a two-hour online chat with netizens jointly hosted by the central government website and the Xinhua website. The discussed issues ranged from education, employment to housing. In addition, CPPCC members in Beijing opened the video camera and sat at a computer screen for video dialogue.

Apart from the central government, different provinces adapt to the Internet platform in the political process. For example, Anhui and Hunan provinces incorporated ‘the online public opinions’ into their provincial government work reports. Many deputies of the Two Sessions also set up their ‘Micro blog stalls’, which offers a ‘zero distance’ for netizens to ask questions. Moreover, millions of netizens also open micro-blog (it is similar as Twitter) to participate in the Two Sessions and discuss proposals. The major Chinese websites such as People’s Daily and Xinhua Net provided with BBS, blogs, online surveys and SMS to interact with netizens. Here are two links to the Two Sessions Section in Global Times and People’s Daily. Meanwhile, it is a way for grassroots to monitor the proposals raised by deputies. Actually, there are certain numbers of proposals which are regarded as meaningless, and criticised by netizens strictly. It is like that deputies attend meetings in Beijing, while netizens held discussions on micro-blog.

Obviously, more voices from different social groups could be heard by means of using e-mail, blog, and micro-blog. It offers a better channel to understand more views and wishes, and some conflicts in society. To some extent, the Internet improves and encourages political participation in China.

In addition, the Internet also changes the pattern that how journalists report the Two Sessions. Most Chinese websites set up a special section for the Two Sessions. Some launch the on live video report to deliver the latest news, and ask netizens to give feedbacks. With the wide application of the mobile newspapers and videos, mobile phones take a significant role to provide the political news. For instance, Xinhua Net opened its mobile newspaper with the theme of ‘Let us have Two Sessions on phone’. The CMMB hand-hold TV is a new platform to report news. Compared with traditional televisions, the CMMB televisions are easy to take, without territory limitations and do not need any wires. These advantages make CMMB as a unique distribute channel which provides audience with different experience. CCTV channels, local TV channels, and international radio stations all deliver their programmes to the CMMB TV.

On the one side, deputies for NPC&CPPCC need pay attention to online opinions, and journalists also collect latest information from the Internet to report. On the other side, it is still necessary for journalists to report politics in traditional approaches, such as focusing on investigation and write in-depth features, and reflect the livelihoods of people at the grassroots.

Recently, the most popular figure discussed by Chinese netizens is not a celebrity or political officials, but a vagrant. With the cult following of netizens, this vagrant drew attention from the media as well.

A photo of a homeless man taken by an amateur photographer when trying his new camera was posted on the Internet. Because of his good looks and sharp dress sense, Chinese netizens call him as Brother Sharp. A growing number of Internet users become his fans and keep tracking the latest news of the unidentified man.

According to the photo, he is wearing a rag-tag but well co-ordinated overcoat on top of a leather jacket. The match of his clothes even similar as the latest Dolce & Gabbana collection The expression showing in his eyes is described as ‘deep and penetrating’ by his fans. With a cigarette between his fingers, the confident position of his walking is like a model. He also wears women’s clothes sometimes, which has emphasised his status as a fashion icon. He was compared with popular Asian actors like Takeshi Kaneshiro or the Oscar-nominated Ken Watanabe. Several netizens have dubbed Brother Sharp as the “most handsome underdog of this century”.

He is one of the most talked about personalities in Chinese cyberspace today. Chinese netizens started the “human flesh search ”, and found that he is usually wandering in the streets of Ningbo, Zhejiang province. In the online posts, Internet users write about his cool attitude while asking for money from passersby on the streets. The news coverage of him is full of Chinese commercial websites and social networking websites. The discussion of Brother Sharp has even spread to other Asian countries like Korea and Japan, who say they find it hard to believe that such a handsome man could be homeless. The Independent in the UK also reported this unique vagrant.

Because of the popularity online, he also attracts the attention from the society. However, a worker at the Ningbo homeless center said his colleagues contacted Brother Sharp several times and tried to help him, but had been refused. Homeless people are vulnerable. Actually, Brother Sharp may by mentally disturbed, the person who first posted Brother Sharp’s photographs mentioned and asked netizens to stop trying to chase him. Some journalists tried to interview him, he was scared and could not speak fluently.

With the help of netizens and the attention of media, these homeless people receive more assistance from the public. Brother Sharp was sent to the mental hospital for treatment. His family that lost contact with him for over 10 years found him from the media report. Finally, today, with the accompany of journalists and some of his family members, Brother Sharp back to his hometown. According to the report, to welcome his back, his home village is like celebrating a festival.

Based on my experience and observation, I found that Chinese netizens are very interesting, kind-hearted and justice. They are playing an increasingly important role in shaping media coverage. Many social problems are firstly raised from the Internet, then reported by the journalists and become a public concern.

The issue of Google in China continues in the following months.

In February, The New York Times reported that the online attacks towards Google were from 2 China schools, but not from the Chinese government. The investigation said that the purpose of these attacks is stealing trade secrets and computer codes and capturing e-mail of Chinese human rights activists. One elite Chinese University called Shanghai Jiaotong University is involved. Its computer science program is one of the top institutions in China. The other one is a vocational computer school in Shandong Province. It is said this school was established with military support, but the school did not admit it.

In March, based on the recent report from Bloomberg, the US government suggested Google to take “China’s Internet censorship to the World Trade Organization (WTO) as an unfair barrier to trade”. However, the censorship in China applies to all Internet companies, and it is less of a trade issue that violate WTO rules.

However, Bloomberg also reported that Google China is recruiting new engineers, managers and sales staff. It seems that now Google China is returning to normal.

Since the early of 2010, Google threatened pullout of China, the debate about Google’s business, and Chinese Internet censorship from different perspectives has never stopped.

In January, according to Google, a representative said that because of the hacker attacks, the world’s largest search-engine company considered quit Chinese market. Meanwhile, Google will not censor its search results in China any more. This news firstly raised discussions and conjectures on the Internet among Chinese netizens.

Why Google leaves?

There are various reasons analysed by either netizens or professionals for Google’ decision. Apart from the cyber attack and censorship, some also suggested that Google has not dominated Chinese market. Though China owns the largest amount of Internet users in the world, Google’s revenue in China is relatively small. Compared with Google’s competitor Baidu takes up 63.9% of Chinese search market, Google only has 31.3% market share.

In addition, the pullout of Google reflects clash of cultures and values. The previous founding chief executive of Google China, Kai-Fu Lee, said that one of the weaknesses western Internet companies failed in China is they did not understand China and Chinese. In September, 2009, Kai-Fu Lee left Google for his own Chinese Internet investment company.

Moreover, some argues Google’s issue is not only about business, but also related with politics. Referred to Google’s unwillingness to submit to censorship, some people pointed out that Google came to China in 2006 when China had a much stricter regulation than it has now. The Obama administration ties closely with Google. The speech of Internet freedom made by Hillary Clinton also made the Google issue even more political.

Chinese Internet users are divided on the Google issue. On the one hand, some expressed their support for Google, about 30 Chinese students even sent bouquets to the company’s headquarters in Beijing. On the other hand, Chinese people and Chinese media argued that the business of Google should not be related with political issue. Clearly, Chinese people have called for a more open and free Internet, but now foreign company still need to operate under Chinese laws.

Chinese students put flowers at Google’s head office to say goodbye.

Employees from Google China published the photo of their office to “commemorate” Google.

The expanded market for news online and the technological improvement have created new trends for journalism, especially for web journalism.

In the start of 2010, there are several media-related events has become public concerns. Apple launched its latest multimedia device iPad on 27,January. iPad offers different newspapers online applications to its user. It changes the story for newspaper-subsidized e-readers. On the one hand,some argue that newspaper and magazine publishers already having a crisis with iPad. The key question is how could the print industries get be paid. On the other hand, iPad is regarded as a good opportunity to save newspaper. Newspaper publishers can attract more online audiences and enhance their usefulness to advertisers. demonstrated its application for the iPad, which provides a digital display of story text, photos and videos. Martin Nisenholtz, the company’s head of digital operations, said the app “captures the essence and experience of reading a newspaper.” In addition,New York Times  Condé Nast is preparing for the iPad since quite a while, it plans to promote some magazines. The advantages of iPad is to change the traditional newspaper business model, cutting delivery and production costs substantially. It could help create a way for media companies to change the consumer attitudes of the up till now free digital era.

Twitters has become a new tool for journalism as well.MediaOnTwitter is a sortable database of journalists that includes the journalists’ names, Twitter usernames, beats they cover, media outlets they work for and the countries in which they live. Users can submit a new contact for consideration by using a web form. Journalism.co.uk reported that The Daily Telegraph was using Twitterfall in its newsroom to monitor breaking news events. There are more suggestions about how to use twitter efficiently on the page of The Journalist’s Guide to Twitter.

In the following, there is a list of sources where you could find more about web journalism.

Guardian’s Media and Internet sections

MediaWeek

Online Journalism Blog

100 best blogs for journalism students

Journalism Technology

10,000 Words

Cyber Journalist.Net