Date of Award
Master of Science
Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication
Journalism and Mass Communication
This study examines ways in which press coverage of earthquakes has changed from 1976 (Tang Shan earthquake) to 2008 (Si Chuan earthquake) in a major Party newspaper, Guan Ming Daily. The expectation was that over that period the press would become freer, with less story emphasis on government and ideology, and more emphasis on common individuals and information. A total of 118 articles were examined for each earthquake. Results show that coverage has changed in important ways. Ideological statements such as "Long live Chairman Mao," which were a staple of coverage in 1976, had disappeared by 2008. Stories in 2008 were shorter (but much more numerous), and focused more on common individuals and less on government. Although the tone of most stories continued to be positive, the 2008 stories also contained some negative material describing suffering and damage. However, no stories in either time period ever criticized government or government officials. The international media ratings service Freedomhouse considers China's media as being "not free." In the sense that they do not serve as a place for public debate or criticism, this is true. However, this fact obscures the real and important changes that have occurred. In 2008, the public learned a great deal about the Si Chuan earthquake in terms of numbers killed and injured, damage, and efforts of assistance that included other countries. Much of this type of information was never printed in the newspaper in the 40 days following the Tang Shan 1976 quake.
Wang, Ruiqi, "Assessing progress in freedom of expression in a Chinese newspaper: a comparison of Guang Ming Daily coverage of the Tang Shan and Si Chuan earthquakes" (2011). Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 12229.