Editor's jailing reflects tough times for news
The recent sentencing of a former chief editor of a party newspaper in Nanyang, Henan, to 16 years in jail for selling top spots in his newspaper has offered a rare glimpse into what a grass-roots party paper must do to survive.
Ge Hong, the former chief editor of the Nanyang Daily, was convicted of taking bribes from 11 of 13 counties and districts administered by Nanyang, in return for giving them front-page 'splash' coverage while he was in office from 1997 to last year, The Southern Metropolis News reported.
Contrary to the belief that party mouthpieces live off government funding, the newspaper's editorial staff had to find ways to fund the paper, even if it meant selling prime space in the publication and filling it with party propaganda.
Prosecutors said 31 publicity officials at the district and county levels paid 121,000 yuan (HK$148,000) in 84 transactions over the past 10 years.
They also accused Ge and several other managers of the newspaper of taking 1.85 million yuan from more than 2.58 million yuan in bonuses that were earmarked for the advertising department.
Ge's share of money, prosecutors said, was 478,000 yuan over six years.
Ge denied those charges at hearings in July, saying he 'did not remember people paying for splashes'. His lawyer also said the evidence of bribery presented at the trial - namely invoices for preserved beef and salted eggs - was not proof that Ge had been sent money.
The lawyer also said the testimonies given at the hearing were inconsistent.
Ge's lawyer said the bonuses his client received were for meeting advertising targets over the years. He also denied that anyone had been told to destroy financial records.
But the Zhenping County People's Court rejected his defence. Ge reportedly plans to appeal against his sentence.
In a statement, Ge said the newspaper had to finance itself because it received no government subsidies.
'As a chief editor, I have devoted more than half of my energy to increasing advertising revenue all these years,' he said.
Ge said he had been nicknamed the 'senior advertising department chief' because he took charge of planning and co-ordinating advertising and hosted conferences every two months on how to raise advertising revenue.
Ge said that in 2009, he helped the paper bring in more than six million yuan in revenue because he had personally telephoned companies and government offices to solicit business.
He said that advertising revenue had increased from less than eight million yuan in 1996 to 43 million yuan in 2009. It made the Nanyang Daily one of the most profitable daily newspapers in Henan.