Turmoil at Tiananmen: A Study of U.S. Press Coverage of the Beijing Spring of 1989

This report by the Shorenstein Center explores the U.S. media coverage of the 1989 Beijing Spring. Although the U.S. was not directly involved in the events that took place, media coverage made Americans deeply involved in them. Among the “firsts” in the coverage was the presence of television anchors night after night in an East Asian nation, providing live coverage, holding Americans spellbound for more than a month. To look back on Tiananmen is to review a story of how China nearly changed. Did the media, foreign and Chinese, help bring China to the brink of that change? Why was the story covered as it was? What drove the high volume of coverage? Was anything missing that could have provided better accuracy or understanding? This report evaluates the press’s coverage and impact, and offers suggestions for future U.S. media coverage of critical international events.

Download the report (PDF).