Shandong newspaper bids farewell after ordered to fold 'over pretty women photos'
The Yantai-based Blue Express Daily has been banned from publishing for three months
A popular Shandong daily that has yet to celebrate its one-year anniversary has been banned from publishing in the next three months because it was running "vulgar" content, according to its editors.
On Friday, The Blue Express Daily (Lan Se Kuai Bao) in Yantai city, run by Shandong’s Dazhong News Group, bid its readers farewell in a heart-felt letter on the front page.
"Dear readers, we'll always appreciate and remember your care, support and help since our beginning," it read. "Let's stand together through thick and thin, and let's look forward to our return."
The daily, which started publishing on July 17 last year, employs more than 300 people and has a circulation of 60,000, said Editor-in-Chief Han Hao.
Han said he would be negotiating with provincial publishing authorities to bring the paper back, but he believed officials would have final say on the fate of the publication.
In an unusual move, the newspaper's Friday front page also published under the letter a poem titled Maybe, written by contemporary Chinese poet Shu Ting.
“Maybe the heavier the burden on our shoulder lies, the firmer our belief is,” reads the poem. “Maybe we don’t have other choices due to calls we can’t resist.”
Although the letter doesn’t explain why the paper is being shut down, Qu Quancheng, a deputy editor at the daily, cited “vulgar content” as a major reason that has lead to its downfall.
“‘Vulgar content' - a made-up accusation - has taken down a newspaper,” he wrote on Weibo. “A new page in China’s journalism and history has been turned.”
Han told the South China Morning Post on Friday that he believed a local competitor had gone to authorities and attacked the paper for running inappropriate pictures of “pretty women”, which Han said were celebrity photos that appeared in the entertainment news.
The daily has seen its fair share of trouble and even violence in its short history. A group of thugs raided the newsroom, damaged computers and attacked staff workers only days after its launch, according to a Chinese media report.
“Everyone here knows who’s doing this to us,” Han said, implying the attacks came from local competitors who were jealous of the paper’s quick success.
Lamenting the loss, a reader posted online: "The paper has always reported about the lives of local people and revealed the problems of certain government branches."
Other readers shared sympathy and support for the daily, directing harsh criticism at Shandong’s publishing authorities.
“What specific vulgar content did they publish?” a reader wrote. “How come I never saw it?”
“We want to hear different voices to make better judgment,” columnist Yan Qilang wrote. “And it is the market that should decide if a newspaper lives or dies.”