Last week Shanghai’s state-owned Xinmin Evening News reported that Shanghai was confidentially applying strict beauty standards, including highly detailed mathematical ratios to the selection of forty female college students to represent the city as Olympic “hostesses” in August. The story was picked up by Xinhua, and by mid-week, was inspiring anger and ridicule in letters to the editor. No surprise, in the face of public ridicule, the Shanghai officials involved in drawing up the standards (“ruddy and shiny complexion”, “elastic skin” and “a plump but not fat body”), denied them at a news conference (which was, alas, closed to overseas media).
Remarkably, the Xinmin Evening News not only refused to back down from the story, but later in the week printed a front-page defense of it, including a description of how they obtained the classified standards memo. [O]fficials at an official news conference who don’t speak the truth have had great impact on the reputation of the media and the government’s credibility, noted the editorial (excerpted in the subscriber-only South China Morning Post). Continue reading