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The people dissent, or The People’s consent?
Comparing news agendas of traditional and new media surrounding a large-scale...
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The people dissent, or The People’s consent? Comparing news agendas of traditional and new media surrounding a large-scale Chinese political event

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Through content analysis of their coverage on a large-scale media event, this paper examines the difference of agendas set by traditional media (represented by newspapers) and new media (represented by micro-blogs) in China. The results show that the agendas discussed by the Chinese people on micro-blogs are not significantly influenced by newspapers. In terms of the topics of the news, newspapers are more concerned with the Chinese economy and people's livelihood while micro-blogs are more concerned with political and legal reforms in China. As for media tone, newspapers are more likely to cover the event positively while micro-blogs tend to be negative. These findings that the Chinese government may be incapable of exercising their traditionally strong media agenda influence over newer digital media suggest that Chinese citizens, or netizens, may enjoy more freedom of speech in micro-blogging.

Zhang, G., Bowman, N. D., Shao, G., & Guan, D. (2015, May). “The people dissent, or The People’s consent?” Comparing news agendas of traditional and new media surrounding a large-scale Chinese political event. Paper presented at the International Communication Association, Puerto Rico.

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The people dissent, or The People’s consent? Comparing news agendas of traditional and new media surrounding a large-scale Chinese political event

  1. 1. The people dissent, or The People’s consent? Comparing news agendas of traditional and new media surrounding a large-scale Chinese political event Guoliang Zhang Nicholas David Bowman Guosong Shao Dengfeng Guan Newspapers Micro-Blogs Rk Agenda item Freq. Perc. Rk Agenda item Freq. Perc. 1 People's livelihood 94 28.92% 1 Convention representatives 189 33.27% 2 Economic development 43 13.23% 2 Governance 170 29.93% 3 Convention representatives 38 11.69% 3 People's livelihood 156 27.46% 4 Shanghai/local affairs 37 11.38% 4 Judicial 112 19.72% 5 Social admin 32 9.85% 5 Political system reform 98 17.25% 6 Judicial 26 8.00% 6 Economic development 63 11.09% 7 Governance 25 7.69% 7 Social admin 42 7.39% 8 Political system reform 23 7.08% 8 Environment 18 3.17% 9 Military and foreign affairs 12 3.69% 9 Military and foreign affairs 15 2.64% 10 Environment 8 2.46% 10 Shanghai/local affairs 6 1.06% Chi-square within group χ2(9) = 151.9, p < .001 Chi-square within group χ2(9) = 482.2, p < .001 Agenda item Newspaper(%) Micro- Blogs(%) Significance test (z-score) People's livelihood 28.92% 27.46% 3.80, p < .001 Economic development 13.23% 11.09% 3.02, p < .001 Convention representatives 11.69% 33.27% 4.19, p < .001 Shanghai/local affairs 11.38% 1.06% 8.63, p < .001 Social admin 9.85% 7.39% 3.01, p = .003 Judicial 8.00% 19.72% 2.55, p = .011 Governance 7.69% 29.93% 5.16, p < .001 Political system reform 7.08% 17.25% 2.32, p =. 021 Military and foreign affairs 3.69% 2.64% 1.92, p = .054 Environment 2.46% 3.17% .318, p = .751 Abstract Through content analysis of their coverage of the Fifth Session of the Eleventh National People's Congress and the Fifth Session of the Eleventh Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference [March 3 to 14, 2012], this paper examines the difference of agendas set by traditional media (represented by newspapers Shanghai Morning News and Oriental Morning Post; 325 total stories) and new media (represented by micro-blog Sina Weibo, 568 valid posts from 12 influential users). The results show that the agendas discussed by the Chinese people on micro-blogs are not significantly influenced by newspapers. In terms of the topics of the news, newspapers are more concerned with the Chinese economy and people's livelihood while micro-blogs are more concerned with political and legal reforms in China. As for media tone, newspapers are more likely to cover the event positively while micro-blogs tend to be negative. These findings that the Chinese government may be incapable of exercising their traditionally strong media agenda influence over newer digital media suggest that Chinese citizens, or netizens, may enjoy more freedom of speech in micro- blogging. Hypotheses Given that Chinese micro-blogs are less controlled in general and thus not as open to strict control by the government, we expect (H1) a significant difference between the broad news agenda set by micro-blogs and the news agenda set by newspapers. Specifically, we assume that when covering the Two Conferences, (H2) newspapers are more likely to focus on economic growth and socioeconomic issues, while micro-blogs are more likely to focus on social issues, such as political and legal debates. This is expected given the Chinese government’s increased focus on the growth of China as an economic power juxtaposed with the renewed world focus on human rights concerns that parallels the Chinese government’s increased exposure to global scrutiny. Finally, considering the difficulty for the public to express their complaints of the government via traditional media and the comparatively relieving effect of such self-media like micro-blogs, we expect (H3) micro-blogging on the Two Conferences to be overall more negative in tone than newspaper coverage. “…there was no significant relationship between the micro-blog agenda and newspaper agenda using the Spearman-Brown rank order correlation function, r = .139, t(8) = 0.4, p = .699, n = 10 rank-order pairs. Hypothesis 1 was thus supported.” (p. 15) “The agenda-setting of traditional newspapers largely mirrored its function as the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece…In the other case, micro-blog agenda revealed the public appeal on social equality and controversy. Hypothesis 2 was thus supported, Yates-adjusted x2(9) = 41.7, p < .001.” (p. 16) Newspapers Micro-Blogs Number Percentage Number Percentage Positive 171 52.6% 219 38.6% Neutral 117 36.0% 43 7.6% Negative 37 11.4% 306 53.8% Chi-square (within group) χ2 (2) = 25.9 p < .001 χ2 (2) = 33.7 p < .001 Total 325 100% 568 100% “…Comparing the media tone of newspapers and micro-blogs, we founded that Hypothesis 3 was thus supported, χ2(2) = 199.8, p < .001, as the distribution of tone between traditional newspapers and micro-blogs differed both significantly and meaningfully.” (p. 18) The current study showed that there was a significant difference in micro- blogs. The agendas discussed by the Chinese people on micro-blogs were not influenced by newspapers. Study Authors

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