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Journalism under fire in China : the Shanghai evening post and mercury 1929-1949

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Wang, Y (2016) Journalism under fire in China : the Shanghai evening post and mercury 1929-1949. PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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Abstract

The Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury, (Ta Mei Wan Pao 大美晚報) was an American owned and managed newspaper in China with both English and Chinese language publications. It was published from 1929 to 1949 and, during this time, it both witnessed and participated in a very significant historical period for China and arguably the most crucial period in the history of Chinese journalism. In 1929, C. V. Starr, the American owner, with his ambition of business in China created the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury (SEPM) from two existing papers and based the paper in the French Concession of pre-war Shanghai, a zone of extraterritoriality. Then, the newspaper experienced the gory Isolated Island incident with a terrorist attack and assassination, a hard time in the wartime capital Chongqing, the great depression in post-war Shanghai and the final closure soon after Shanghai was taken by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). This thesis will make an original contribution to the field by offering the most detailed historical account of the SEPM to date. It includes a complete inventory of the newspaper’s various editions and activities, which includes the first documented history of the various incarnations of the newspaper’s radio station, Ta Mei Radio. In providing this inventory, the thesis also enhances our understanding of the historical foundation, motivation and limitations of the development of journalism in modern China, with a particular focus on Shanghai. In the first place, this thesis offers the most comprehensive historical trajectory of the SEPM supported by hitherto unpublished primary sources from a multitude of archives throughout the world, and supplemented by a range of secondary sources in both English and Chinese. Moreover, a selection of articles (initially published in supplements of the Chinese edition of the SEPM from 1932 to 1940) have been translated for the first time and used to document key moments of the newspaper’s history.
The vicissitudes of the SEPM highlight the turbulence of Chinese politics. More importantly, they provide a lens to present the professionalisation of Chinese journalism in its critical turning point. Journalistic professionalism originally rose in the United States during the late 19th century in response to the commercialisation of the press. The Missouri School of Journalism, the first of its kind, was established in 1908 with the ideal of creating education programme to form the norms of professionalism and promote them in practice. The professionalisation of American journalism significantly influenced the development of Chinese journalism in the first half of the 20th century. By studying the SEPM’s archives, much evidence of both the efforts to professionalise journalism throughout and the devastating effects that the conflicts had on the development of professional journalism in this turbulent period will be presented in the thesis. Moreover, this period of the SEPM is very much marked by the angst-ridden articles that many Chinese journalists felt the need to write (often – for their own safety - anonymously) as their activities as journalists began to shift from protecting the public interest through objective reporting (a value chiefly derived from the professional prototype of American journalism) to activities that became increasingly partisan. These articles are also analysed in the thesis. Thirdly, this thesis applies Bourdieu’s field theory to tease out elements of the historical outline of the SEPM that are particularly salient to the development of professional journalism in China. Struggling to integrate the fearless reporting that was valued by the Missouri-trained journalists and the fear of the growing power and ruthlessness of the Japanese occupation, journalists relied on their wordsmithing – their social and cultural capital – to respond to their predicament. Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of field and habitus establish an analytical framework through which the course of an individual’s history as well as history as it is objectified in social institutions can be re-told through the paradigm of a symbiotic relationship that dynamically transforms both entities. Important elements of Bourdieu’s field theory (field, habitus, capital, etc.) have been applied to the case of the SEPM in order to better articulate aspects of its history and its place within the broader sweep of the history of professional journalism in China.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: modern China, the Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury, Ta Mei Wan Pao, professionalism, field theory, Missouri School of Journalism, C.V. Starr, Randall Gould
Copyright Information:

Copyright 2016 the Author

Date Deposited: 24 Apr 2017 03:27
Last Modified: 11 May 2017 00:27
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