Many professional journalists in China look to reporting of the Watergate scandal in the United States as the ultimate example of a professional press at work. Likewise, they see the “investigative report” as the “most comprehensive test of a journalist’s level of professionalism”, and the accomplishment of such a report as the “apex” of a life’s work in journalism.
The dawn of the investigative report as an object of desire for professional Chinese journalists came in the 1990s, as China Central Television launched its “News Probe” investigative news program and Southern Weekend devoted substantial resources to investigative reports and established the first “investigative” newspaper section.
At the same time, there appeared in China a group of “investigative reporters” who werrelatively well known by the public (Wang Keqin, Liu Chang, Lu Yuegang). Still, investigative reporters in China face substantial obstacles, including the party censorship apparatus, commercial pressures and threats to their personal safety.
According to many accounts, investigative reporting (generally carried out under the banner of “watchdog journalism“) has faced increased challenges under the leadership of President Hu Jintao. Some reporters say even internal references, sensitive news reports not published but circulated among party leaders, have been subjected to tighter controls.