China's lopsided coverage of school attacks slammed
The Chinese media were strongly criticised by the public for giving the US Sandy Hook school shooting extensive coverage, while "playing down" an attack on a mainland primary school which left 23 students injured.
China Central Television's lead in Saturday's news round-up was the Newtown school shooting in the US state of Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were killed by a lone gunman, who then killed himself.
This marked the first time in 26 years that the state mouthpiece began with foreign news since the Challenger space shuttle disaster in 1986.
Meanwhile, the Guangzhou-based tabloid Southern Metropolis Daily devoted just one-quarter of an inside page on Saturday to news of the 23 students attacked by knife-wielding man in Guangshan county, Henan . In contrast, there was a headline story and a four-page detailed report on the Newtown shooting on Sunday.
Former China Youth Daily editor Li Datong suggested the restrained coverage of the Henan attack was a result of a state ban. Meanwhile, he said the disproportionate coverage of the US story was based on Xi Jinping's order to play up stories with news values.
"Obviously, state media have received bans from the propaganda authorities, requiring them not to focus on the Henan school attack," Li said.
Although the Guangshan county government released news of the knife attack on its website at around noon on Friday, it attempted to play it down, including by cancelling a press conference and ordering officials not to say anything about it, Xinhua reported.
The controversial coverage of the school attacks, both occurring on Friday, triggered huge criticism from the online community.
On Sina Weibo, a post critical of the media by online commentator "Zuoyeben" was reposted more than 150,000 times and drew 40,000 comments.
"CCTV has spent an entire afternoon reporting and analysing the Newtown school shooting in the United States," he wrote. "They count the total number of school shootings, try to dig out the [root causes], give suggestions on reforms, estimate the number of guns and potential risk, as well as condemn President [Barack] Obama."
"You guys are so professional and conscientious, but why don't you report on the Henan man who hacked 22 students?" he said.
Military writer Zhao Chu called the treatment of the Henan hacking story as "a kind of unforgivable unconcern towards compatriots' lives".
"I must say, I'm more concerned with the children in Henan," he wrote. "Such vile cases happen again and again [in China], and the state media haven't given them enough coverage and discussion."