Two top editors of an investigative Chinese news organization, Caixin, were a center of attention at Stanford Wednesday when they received the Shorenstein Journalism Award on behalf of their ground-breaking publication.
It was the first time that the award, begun in 2002, has gone to a non-Western recipient. The award is sponsored by the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center.
"Caixin was selected for its commitment to integrity in journalism, and for its path-breaking role as a leader in establishing an independent media in China," the Shorenstein center said in a statement.
Accepting the award were pioneering journalist Hu Shuli, editor in chief of Caixin Media, and Wang Shuo, managing editor in charge of Caixin's investigative reporting. Caixin’s platforms include magazines and Web sites.
Hu was ranked as one of Time Magazine’s Top 100 Influential People this year, and Wang was listed among China’s top 10 young editors, the Stanford statement noted.
Though Chinese government attempts to control the media, including the independent media, are exerted on several levels, Caixin has developed a reputation for pushing the boundaries and publishing important revelations, including its investigation of the Chinese high-speed rail crash.
Hu and Wang appeared on an afternoon panel attended by more than 100 people on campus on "China's Changing Media Landscape." The panel featured also China expert Orville Schell, a former UC Berkeley journalism dean and current director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York. Also on the panel was journalist Hu Ben from the influential Chinese publication Southern Weekend.
In introducing the panel, the Shorenstein center’s associate director for research, Daniel Sneider, said he sees Caixin as “the first truly independent media company in China. It's been widely recognized I think as kind of a leading edge of change for the media in China.”
He cautioned, however, that the Chinese journalists, even on a panel at Stanford, feel obliged to speak “carefully” because of “the situation in which journalists have to operate in China.”
Chinese journalists on the panel acknowledged that being on the record limited what they could say.
Schell said the Chinese news media have exhibited enormous energy and change in recent years and that he receives probably 10 to 20 calls from Chinese journalists for every one he receives from a U.S. journalist.
There seemed to be general consensus on the panel that the rapid growth of social media and Internet use in China is making it far more difficult for the government to control the flow of information.
The Shorenstein center said that it plans to alternate the Shorenstein Journalism Award between Western and Asian media in the future.