The Travelling Objectivity Norm: Examining the case of the first Chinese journalism handbook

16 November 2016

This study investigates the significance of Xu Baohuang’s 1919 textbook Xin wen xue on the articulation of an objectivity norm in the early Republican-era in China. It addresses issues raised by cross-cultural or comparative analysis of journalistic norms. It also considers the need to maintain awareness of differences in the political and journalistic field in Republican-era China. Following Michael Schudson’s 1981 essay “The Objectivity Norm in American Journalism,” our analysis focuses on the articulation of the objectivity norm and looks for unique aspects of norm formation arising out of the Chinese context. As such, we see Xu’s role as more than importing an American norm into China. Rather he codifies and legitimizes a norm that has a distinct relationship to local issues and media practice. We argue that while Xu’s text articulates what can only be considered a nascent ideal, and not a fully matured objectivity norm, his work nevertheless codifies a new sense of news, and also a journalistic commitment to the cultivation of healthy public opinion.