Is the People’s Daily jumping on the data journalism bandwagon?

At the least, the Party’s paper certainly seems to have woken up to the fad for infographics. In my admittedly limited experience (it’s not like I read the thing every day), I have never seen an enormous color infographic splashed over the front page of the People’s Daily, in the spot usually reserved for Very Important Personages. But here is one taking pride of place in March 3 edition:RMRB2016030301

The infographic explains the five slogans that are in the next Five-Year Plan, which will be published at next week’s legislative session, and then picks a statistic and graphic that goes with each one. (For reference, the plan urges that China’s development be “innovative,” “coordinated,” “green,” “open,” and “shared.”) Charming stuff, if a bit tame compared to the amazing cartoon video explaining the Five-Year Plan that blew up the internet a while back.

Still, it is lively by the standards of the People’s Daily. Here is what a more normal day at the Communist Party newspaper looks like, from a couple of days ago–a photograph of Xi Jinping meeting a foreign dignitary, reports of government meetings, etc.

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The People’s Daily does have a history of, very slowly, adapting conventions of other newspapers. It started printing the front page in color only in 2004, and these days also breaks up its traditional text-heavy layout with a touch more white space. So even before the infographics, this gray lady had already become a bit more bling. Here’s a front page from late 2003, just before the switch to color, which gives you some of the flavor of the proper old-school style: visiting dignitaries and sturdy industrial equipment.
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Update. Clearly I should have waited another couple of days to do this post, as Monday’s issue devoted half of its entire front page to a giant infographic on the Five-Year Plan. At this rate, the People’s Daily should be looking like the USA Today of the late 1980s (of We’re Eating More Beets! fame) sometime in the 2020s…

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