People's Daily takes down Kim Jong-Un sexiest man alive slideshow

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A slideshow saluting Kim Jong-Un's satirical win as "Sexiest Man Alive" has vanished from the website of China's People's Daily, Alexa Olesen reports.

People's Daily reported the honor straight, despite the fact that it was bestowed on the North Korean dictator by satirical paper The Onion. Olesen explains how the story, which Hong Kong's Phoenix TV recognized as satire, "morphed into straight news": the state-run took up the story, which then moved to People's Daily.

Jeremy Goldkorn, director of, a firm that researches Chinese media and Internet, said that one of the peculiarities of the Chinese news business is that stories can be freely shared by any other media outlet in their entirety, or edited, as long as the original source is credited somewhere on the page.

The joke "was perfectly engineered to appeal to editorial biases" in Chinese state media, Adam Minter writes. One of those biases: "stories that highlight foreign leaders or news organizations praising aspects of China that might ordinarily be criticized by overseas voices."

For example, after the failure of the Copenhagen climate talks in 2009, and accusations that China played a leading role in that breakdown, the paper ran an article with the headline, “World media reports praise China’s contribution to Copenhagen Climate Talks.” Likewise, in 2010, after a now-annual deluge of overseas articles criticizing China’s pressure-filled college entrance examinations, the paper ran a piece entitled “British media praise China’s college entrance compositions.”

Kim's not Chinese, obviously, but "he does run a Chinese client-state about which the Chinese leadership has serious misgivings," Minter writes. "Thus, foreign praise for him -- even his looks -- is likely very welcome in places where, no doubt, his handlers are keenly aware that his image reflects at least in part on China’s."

Onion Editor Will Tracy told Edward Wong, “The Onion fully intends to provoke international incidents.”

Back in the less irony-proofed United States, the press still can get snookered. Jack Shafer writes about a fake press release that fooled lots of outlets Monday:

When a prank press release gets published, it identifies the outlets and journalists who were too lazy to make the single phone call that would have defused the joke. I consider that a real public service.

Related: A mesmerizing photo of Kim Jong-Un on a horse (People's Daily)

Previously: Fake press release exposes real problems in online news distribution | The Onion thanks its ‘Communist subsidiary’ for picking up story

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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