Shaun Rein

In an amazing act of unprofessional behavior CNN took last week the British actor Christian Bale to visit Chen Guangcheng, a blind legal activist, hitting a world-wide audience, but leaving many wonder what the broadcasters was doing. “A complete failure of journalistic integrity,” writes Shaun Rein in Forbes.

Shaun Rein:

CNN’s China team, in a complete failure of journalistic integrity, decided last week to become the news rather than just report it. The actor Christian Bale called CNN to follow him as he drove for eight hours to confront police to try to see Chen Guangcheng, a blind legal activist being held in his home in the eastern Chinese village of Linyi. Bale was in China to promote his movie about the Rape of Nanking by Japanese troops in 1937.

CNN did Bale one better. It became complicit in Bale’s activism by actually planning the trip and driving him to Linyi. CNN reporter Steven Jiang then translated for Bale as he argued with Chinese police officers and refused to comply with their directives to leave. CNN posted video of the trip on its website, calling it exclusive, showing police forcing Bale to leave while Bale chastised the government, saying its treatment of Chen ”represents the power structure and their attitude towards their own citizens, which is disgusting.”..

As Adam Minter, of Bloomberg in Shanghai, tweeted, “News orgs that want to maintain their credibility in China don’t set up confrontations between cops and celebrities, at celebrity request.” Minter hit the nail on the head. Journalists need to maintain objectivity and cover both sides of a problem rather than become the story by being activists. CNN’s China coverage has lost what little credibility it had with this escapade, and that is a terrible shame, for the network has often shed light on areas that needed more light.

More in Forbes.

Shaun Rein is a speaker at the China Speakers Bureau. Do you need him at your meeting or conference? Do get in touch or fill in our speakers’ request form.

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