China Indoctrinating Journalists? Think Again

09/20/2013 05:46 pm ET | Updated Nov 20, 2013

There is an interesting, or more precisely non-interesting, thing happening in China now when it comes to the media.

The government appears to be cracking down on journalists. Nothing new. The government appears to be cracking down on the Internet. Yawn. The government is force feeding journalists Marxist theory in Peking duck fashion. We need a new story line.

In late August the Chinese government announced that it would make it mandatory for the country's press corps of 307,000 reporters to take Marxism classes. While this may illicit a tsk tsk and exasperated sigh from media observers outside of China, this is hardly surprising from those who are more familiar with the country mostly from having lived there for a while.

The Chinese government appears smart and powerful when it comes to information control, but not smart enough to be ahead of the curve when it comes to the emergence of an independent media or the potential power of the Internet and social media (yes including Weibo).

There are a growing number of young journalists starting their own news enterprises within the country and sometimes out of the country including China Current and China Digital Times.

For example, China Current, an online publication and self-described "independent news agency," includes investigative pieces about timely problems and topics within China. A recent article examined why schools for the children of migrants workers were being shut down. The publication recently held a recruiting event for team members at Beijing University.

Savvy Chinese government officials must be aware of the signs of a fringe press that has essentially created side doors towards what could be an open information society.

One could tout fledgling online publications such as China Current as the emergence of an alternative press, or perhaps a small but active group of intellectual rogues who really truly care about uncovering the untold stories, or writing about a segment of society that has generally been ignored. Does one smell muckrackers in the making?

And there is always the possibility that the Chinese government is like a toothless shark when it comes to journalist, every-so-often it needs to wield its hand. There is also the possibility that most ordinary folks (the audience) in China only care about information so far as a means to snag the best deals they can get on Taobao. This begs the question of: do most Chinese really care how free the press is or want to read investigative stories?

Only time will tell, but there appears to be a slim slant of sun in an area that was once a total abyss. Someone out there -- whether it is a journalist or reader -- does care.