'Beautiful Journalists': The BS-Detector Angle

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Two days ago I mentioned the venerable and Onion-esque Chinese media practice of featuring various "beautiful journalists" who are covering the big-deal political conferences underway now in Beijing. A sample from this year's installment in People's Daily:

Thumbnail image for PeopleDaily2013.png


My friend Adam Minter -- of Shanghai Scrap, Bloomberg, and the forthcoming Junkyard Planet -- reminds me that I have been away from China long enough that my BS-detector instincts have atrophied. He writes:
In regard to the People's Daily slideshow with the seven images of the lone "beautiful" journo - I'd bet a couple of rounds that it's a paid placement, designed to boost her career prospects (note how the images are mostly posed). No need to include her name - the right people will know who she is.

wang-zifei-obama-shanghai-town-hall1.gifThis is pretty common stuff these days. Alternatively, there's the very real possibility that a paramour might have paid to have these placed as a sort of flattering gift. That's not without precedent -  recall that during Obama's first China trip in 2009 there was a big online kerfuffle over the identity of a very attractive young woman [JF: gif at right] seated behind him during his q&a with students. Later turned out that a wealthy boyfriend arranged for her to be seated there, and paid off some photogs [more than $15,000 at current rates, > $12,500 at the time] to get good images that would be published in Chinese media. Pretty standard stuff, and I'm guessing something similar is happening with this slide show, and many similar on PD.

Of course he's right. I'll have to get back in the game.

James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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