But in my view, the eight-page China Watch PR/propaganda sheet (take your pick) seems self-destructive for this respected media brand.
According to a report in China Daily, which will write the views, the liftout will appear in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Age and the Australian Financial Review. It has also run in Fairfax NZ’s Dominion Post.
It will not be the first time that ad supplements have had a political dimension, but the tone of China Watch is sometimes lecturing.
China Watch – in localised form – also runs as a liftout in the London Telegraph and the Washington Post, both of which have had strong histories of reporting on world events and are not known as propaganda sheets.
These big boys have the resources and independent journalism to balance any propaganda. With all due respect, if you want a nuanced examination of the rumbling dispute in the South China Sea, you do not turn to the Wellington broadsheet.
Fairfax NZ group executive editor Sinead Boucher distanced the company’s editorial operation from the arrangement, saying it had no involvement in what was a commercial printing operation utilising the Fairfax distribution channel.
She noted there was a clear note on the liftout saying Fairfax editorial staff and resources were not involved.
But in my opinion, the willingness to run politicised content overwhelms that distinction. Who is next – North Korea?
The good news is that China Watch features so much heavy handed PR and boosterism, only a moron in a hurry would confuse it for editorial.
The Dominion Post does not have the resources to challenge any assertions from the Chinese propaganda ministry, which the Financial Times has described as having a budget of US$10 billion.
The Australian ABC programme MediaWatch has described Fairfax as running propaganda for the Chinese.
For example, China Watch declared the Philippines did not have a leg to stand on in its territorial dispute with China, but an international tribunal subsequently found in Manila’s favour.
Fairfax is playing in dangerous waters.
So the new model of journalism for NZ is to run propaganda for China.
NZ newspapers should run Chinese Government propaganda, if newspapers in China were free to run advertising from foreign Governments also.