China Focus: Reporting methods of singer's death trigger debate online

Jan.19,2015
BEIJING, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Grief over a famous singer's death turned into a dispute on how the press should cover celebrity deaths after many accused media outlets of crossing the line.

Yao Beina, who sang on the "Frozen" soundtrack "Let it go," died from breast cancer on Friday afternoon. She was 33. Yao's career skyrocketed after she attended the Voice of China in 2013 and her death shocked many fans.

But the three reporters from Shenzhen Evening News who broke the story were accused of dressing up as medical staff and sneaking into the operation room to take pictures of deceased Yao as doctors removed her cornea for transplant.

Yao's agent, Bo Ning, demanded the Shenzhen newspaper apologize while Zhang Liang from Huayi Brothers Music Corp, Yao's employer, described the reporters as "inhumane."

Cao Lin, a commentator from China Youth Daily, said via his microblog that the paper was taking "a paparazzi approach to obtain scoop news."

The paper apologized Sunday in a statement posted on its official Weibo account admitting that reporters had taken pictures but said photos were deleted when Yao's family made objections.

Such criticism towards the paper swiftly expanded to more media outlets amid online discussions on the proper way for journalists to cover celebrity life.

People's Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Communist Party of China, published a commentary calling on reporters to have a better sense of "responsibility."

"Journalists should not be bent solely for readership or click-rates," said the commentary. "Influence always comes hand in hand with social responsibilities."

A doctor from the same hospital also posted an article comparing journalists to "the vultures" who "just waited for the death of her."

"At that time, her relatives were overwhelmed with sorrow, her doctors were trying everything they could to save her and she herself was also battling with death. While some reporters were just waiting to feed others' curiosity," said the article.

But some professionals disagree. Liu Peng, chief editor of The Journalist Monthly, said it is all right for journalists to wait at the hospital as long as they do not disturb the doctors and hurt the feelings of the family. "After all, reporters were not just waiting for the death, they were also waiting for the patient to get better."

Chen Bo, a journalist has interviewed several distraught families, defended the profession and wrote in another article that "it is not fair for Yao Beina, who had her corneas donated, if all media outlets shunned reporting her death."

The irony for a journalist is that, the more bad news he reports, the worse it appears to be, wrote Chen.

The singer's death also caused a divide over how common people should treat the death of celebrities.

Yang Jinlin, a TV anchor from Phoenix Television, lamented on Weibo that the death of Yao generated a bigger splash on social networks than that of Zhang Wannian, a former senior Chinese military leader.

Yang said General Zhang had led the Chinese army to defend the country, "but his passing away is less significant than a female singer."

Yang's opinion also triggered a debate as some say in peace time, it can be understood that a singer enjoys more popularity than a military figure because she has a broader fan base.

Some said they learned more about General Zhang through media reports. "You can praise Zhang's greatness, but you should not debase Yao's profession as a singer," said Weibo user "Aj_BenBen." Enditem

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