Chinese Journalism

posted Feb 4, 2012, 8:40 AM by Western Sonoma County Historical Society   [ updated Feb 4, 2012, 8:46 AM ]
Sebastopol Times October 30, 1895

The oldest and most important of the Chinese newspapers, the Peking Gazette, dates from the eighth century. It is a kind of bulletin of laws and official organ, publishing the details relative to every movement and incident in the imperial court, as well as the officials and a record of the sittings of the tribunals. These communications are furnished to the Gazette¹s editor by the functionaries of the palace; they are set up with an infinite care and are printed only after having been revised and corrected very attentively. They are not published consequently till two or three days after having been communicated to the editor, who meanwhile keeps publishing a daily unofficial edition of the Gazette. The paper is sold in the streets of Peking by news vendors and criers. The subscription price of the official edition is about $4 a month, of the unofficial edition $3. There is a manuscript edition which costs $3 monthly.

Outside of the capital the first Chinese paper published appeared at Shanghai about 30 years ago. It was soon followed by the Tien-tsin Journal and the Canton Journal. These newspapers were founded by Europeans, who were in fact, only nominally in charge, the real inspirators and editors of those independent sheets being literati, mandarins anxious to place themselves beyond the reach of imperial persecutions. There are indeed no restrictive laws against the press in China, but neither are there laws guaranteeing the freedom of writing and speaking, so that Chinese journalists are always at the mercy of the police.

The Shanghai News, which is the type of Chinese independent papers, is sold for 1 cent a number. It contains an editorial similar to a magazine article, well studied, well written and treating of political and social questions. Official decrees are published in the columns of The News, as well as local information, cable dispatches and sporting reports, for there are horse races at Shanghai. The regular reporters are able and intelligent; they disguise themselves in order not to be recognized as belonging to The News corps. But they have not yet come to the practice of interviewing.

The French Jesuit missionaries have founded a 1 cent newspaper, which was a monthly at first and is now semiweekly. It is read by the Chinese Catholics. There are also a few scientific and literary periodicals. It must be noted that as a general rule the Chinese papers do not published articles bearing on questions of actual and practical politics, so that there are in the empire no opposition or semiofficial organs. They usually are satisfied with publishing an eclectic review of affairs. They are read in the most faraway provinces. The Shanghai News circulation is about 15,000 daily numbers, and that of the Canton Gazette amounts to 3,000 numbers. Since 1885 The Shanghai

News published an illustrated weekly supplement, which is a very curious specimen of Chinese art in that line. Besides those native papers in Chinese there are some printed in English at Hongkong, a few in Portuguese at Macao and one German paper at Shanghai. ­New York Tribune