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“What I claim is to live to the full contradiction of my time, which may well make sarcasm the condition of truth.” —Roland Barthes, Mythologies

屏幕快照 2015-10-12 下午2.26.35

The Chinese population all around the world share the same language. But when you ask a Taiwanese and a mainland Chinese about who contributed most in the anti-Japanese war, the answers could be totally different. If you search for the keywords online, you will be overloaded with the results and opinions from netizens, media and other resources.

What is trustworthy in such an information whirlpool? Initium is trying to react to such situation. As a new media organization set up in August 2015, Initium intends to offer insights into Greater China region and international affairs with scrupulous reports and data analysis in Chinese. Its major platforms includes an app, a website, SNS accounts(Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) and a newspaper to be published later on according to Annie, the executive editor of the Initium.

Headquartered in Hong Kong, Initium aims at audience in Greater China region. But in reality, it was blocked in mainland China only 12 days after its launch, which means its content is regarded as harmful to the political authorities or threatening the social stability. In Hong Kong, citizens suspect that the company is financially backed by the Chinese government. Hence, whether Initium serves as the throat of Chinese government is under debate, because people have no idea who the largest investor is. According to Annie, the boss will show up in late 2015.

In my opinion, after browsing all sorts of news platforms in everyday life, I can tell the dedication and professionalism of its staff through their works. Its news articles, approximately 800 to 1000 words in length, emphasize the original investigating reports and data-based research. On the left corner of its Facebook page, it highlights a video In Praise of Fai Ching (廢青頌)[1]. It is their most successful video so far, liked and reposted by more than 700 people. It has drawn such wide attention that below the video there are diversified and polarized comments. Annie said, it hits the emotional point of Hong Kong youngsters and got spread quickly online regardless of who the video producer is. Against the backdrop that Hong Kong youngsters have to face the increasingly unaffordable living cost, the video well responds to this cruel reality. Every story has its own life and character, and the audience is the judge of its value and newsworthiness.

In the age of Internet, media industries in different countries have witnessed the fading of printed media. With the popularity of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and WeChat (China), to certain extents, people have got used to fragmented news and infographics. But can we proclaim the death of investigative journalism? Can lengthy but profound reportage still attract audience and wield clout in the current age? Seeing from the case of Initium, I would say, content is still the king. The popularity gained by the video and long-form articles signifies that an inviting topic accompanied by engaging narratives can still win respect from audience.

The fading or transformation of printed media is neither simply removing the contents from paper to screen, nor mixing words with images alone. There should be a more complicated and discursive process embedded in the concrete social context. Standing along among the blossom of all sorts of new media platforms, Initium, aiming at producing serious news stories, provides an interesting case for us to ponder.

Though Initium is in an embarrassing position, Annie is positive about its future. The website traffic is more than 1.5 billion and around 60 thousand people downloaded the app in the first month. Personally, I would rather describe Initium as a social innovation lab than merely media company. Let’s wait and see what kind of chemical reaction it will create in the center of whirlpool.

Website of Initium: https://theinitium.com/

[1] Fai Ching (廢青):A transliteration of wasted young persons in Hong Kong. Originally, it refers to the losers in school and workplace, unable to afford a flat in Hong Kong but like joining anti-government protest to vent the grievances. Having been approved by netizens in a popular local website(hkgolden.com) since October 2014, it is changing into a polysemous word of self-mockery, ridiculing and sacarsm.

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