What's in a speech on news reporting
By Zhang Zhilong
As a method of communication, seemingly, storytelling sounds easy to the general public, while for media practitioners, it's more than language skills. It's part of a systematic discipline which deserves practicing and studying of a lifetime.
Three years ago, on February 19, 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a speech on news reporting and public opinion after he visited three state-run media outlets earlier that day, the People's Daily, Xinhua News Agency and China Central Television (CCTV).
Running a country with a population over 1.4 billion, Chinese President Xi Jinping has been well known for his down-to-earth style, as shown by his frequent visits to exemplary role models and representatives from different walks of life. 
For reporters and editors, President Xi's visits are morale-boosting, and his words are thought-provoking.

'Tell China's story well'

"Connecting China and the outside world, [proactively] communicating with the international community" is part of what President Xi said, summarized as maxim in 48 Chinese characters, according to domestic media, meant to set a direction for media practitioners by elaborating responsibilities and the mission of news reporting and public opinion, especially in such a rapidly changing world.
Undeniably, for outsiders lacking knowledge about China, inept in figuring out the Chinese-characteristic discourse system, or just having sporadically noticed context of his speech, the meaning behind President Xi's simple words is difficult to get. But for experts  studying theories of journalism and sorting out challenges lying ahead for media industry, those words are pure guidance.
The key to connecting China and the outside world depends on storytelling. 
"Tell China's story well and disseminate China's voice properly," President Xi introduced this idea as early as August 19, 2013, when he presided a work conference on publicity. 
Since then, the value of this idea has impressed Chen Lidan, a professor at the School of Journalism, Renmin University of China, who also observed problems existing in the practice of news reporting. "It has become a routine that good news is reported, while bad news is neglected," Chen told CGTN Digital.
"There is nothing wrong with this idea, but the challenge is how to understand it," said Chen while explaining that telling China's story well is not equal to telling only good stories. 

Positive news stories and investigative reporting

President Xi did stress the importance of positive news reporting. "Positive news coverage should be stick to," he said on February 19, 2016, while he also emphasized value of investigative reports.
"Supervision by public opinion [equivalent of investigative report] is integrative with positive news reporting, not contradictory. As to news reporting, problems spotted in daily work should be covered, the ugly side of society should be exposed and malpractices in daily life need to be criticized," reported People's Daily on April 19, 2016, citing what President Xi said.
"The goal for assessment is communication impact, not just content of news reporting," said Chen.
When it comes to different types of reporting, Chen elaborated priority among the criteria in series. "As to news facts, it is responsibility; as to refutation, it is reasoning; when expressing stance, it is proportion," he explained.

China is different

"Tell China's story well," President Xi emphasized on August 19, 2018, five years after the idea was initiated. Two days later, President Xi pointed out that "a real, stereoscopic and comprehensive China" needs to be presented to the outside world.
But Chen is impressed because according to him some good stories aren't told well when compared with the Western media.
Some Western countries are quite good at publicity, in an invisible way. Strategy they adhere to is "guiding" the audience to a direction they've set earlier while the audience think they themselves are choosing what they like, reported local media, citing what President Xi said in August 2013.
Media tell not only what we want to tell, but also what international audience want to hear; not only Chinese can tell China's stories, foreigners can do as well, President Xi said on February 19, 2016.
For practitioners from the circle of international communication, what President Xi said has taken difference between China and the outside world into consideration.
China is different. It comes from entirely different historical and cultural roots. There is a powerful presumption in the West that China should be alike: "It never has been and never will be," wrote Martin Jacques in the Guardian on October 19, 2015.
(Top image: CCTV headquarters in Beijing, February 7, 2019. /VCG Photo)