At first, I didn’t intend to apply for this position. I wanted to work as a journalist, and sent my resume to lots of different media outlets. However, there are not a lot of reporting jobs available. So when a media company called, I accepted an offer to join their opinion analyst team. The job paid decently, but I found it disgusting.
The government of cities and provinces pay the media outlet to send them reports. I used sophisticated software developed by China Telecom and Barfoo
to pick up on comments by netizens. I could search specifically for negative comments. These were often complaints about corruption by local officials or embezzlement, and so forth. I then wrote up reports that I sent to officials higher up – sometimes to city officials, sometimes to provincial officials. If I received something really important, I would send a mobile phone message directly to the province’s governor. The higher-up officials pick some of these cases and expose those at fault as a warning to others.
We also received some complaints directly. It’s possible that some of these are leaked deliberately in the context of power struggles. But we had to report everything, because if government officials found out about a problem through other ways, then we would get in trouble.
“You learn about how the government handles problems, and start to understand their psychology”
The media outlet I worked for runs a forum [which is common for Chinese media outlets]. If there’s a problematic comment in the forum, analysts report it and sometimes it will get deleted. At times, worried officials would contact our media outlet directly to ask for posts to be removed. If we found problematic comments on other sites, we would report those too and then it’s up to the officials to decide how to handle those.
I never told people what I did. I was nothing but an informer. But this job improved my writing skills, and if I one day work as a regular journalist, I think it will be useful – you learn about how the government handles problems, and start to understand their psychology.