Fresh off my three-week stint working with community newspapers in China, and immediately after doing a Community Journalism Summer Roadshow workshop at a North Carolina group of papers, the globe-trotting ol’ perfesser finds himself asking: compare and contrast the two. But remember, community journalism as we Americans know it is a new media phenomenon in China, maybe no older that 15 years. The following comparison, by vital stats, is, to the best of my estimation, reasonably correct.
The Da Shi Hua News of Chongqing, China
A three-year-old startup with no tradition or legacy of excellence. Striving to be a community paper. Now doing many of the things American papers do (lots of faces and names) Weekly tab print and online and social media platforms all active. Gets all its support, office space, funding from local government Has no ads, and ironically no government license either, no freedom of the press (obviously) and thus must kowtow to the government. Readers live mostly in huge urban skyscraper apartments where circulation numbers in the tens of thousands. Reporters are mostly young college-trained women who do not live in the coverage area and who don’t see any local identity, or “difang gan” — “sense of place.” And readers do not have that cultural anchor either; neither does the papers, in so far as I can tell.
The Watauga Democrat
Formerly family founded and owned (Rivers/Coffee families) with a long and storied legacy of excellence and community involvement/leadership, now owned by a small media group. Profitable venture with many niche publications. Paid circulation is roughly 10k, (far fewer that Chinese community papers), delivery is by mail, carrier and rack sales, printed at the central plant in Boone with no government interference (again, obviously, but when comparing with China, needs stating). Reporters include many older experienced men who have lived there and worked in the mountains for many years, with a deep knowledge of people and region, which has a fierce sense of place and distinct identity, which the papers take advantage of and reflect in their pages (online and mobile too).