Strictly speaking, these reporters do not conform to the definition of journalists because in China they are often entrusted with multiple duties — such as being ad salesmen and handling publicity — in addition to their editorial tasks. The nature of these multiple functions creates obvious conflicts of interest. And it is the newspapers that arrange their jobs this way.
The truth is that compared to the taker of “mouth-sealing fees,” the state press is much more unscrupulous than the individual journalists on their payrolls. For instance, a few years ago CCTV revealed abuses by Baidu, the major Internet services company whose pay-per-click ad system led to fraud. Baidu search results helped send junk information designed to mislead the public. When this was exposed, many people predicted that Baidu would have to pay a fortune to silence CCTV from further reporting.
Sure enough, as Baidu’s chief financial officer, Jennifer Li, later confirmed, Baidu’s “marketing expenses” soared by more than 40 million yuan in the quarter following the scandal. The vast majority of these marketing-related expenses were given to CCTV.