Beijing hotel backs off journalist offer

Payment offered for positive Olympics coverage

SHANGHAI -- Beijing's Gehua New Century Hotel, site of the official non-accredited media center for the Beijing Olympics in August, has rescinded its offer to pay journalists as much as 1000 yuan ($145) for positive stories.

"We wanted to make it a media policy," public relations manager Zhao Xiaoda said. "But the hotel has not approved it. It is not good news for the hotel, especially during the period of the Olympics."

Public relations officers in China routinely give payments to journalists in return for attending press conferences or providing coverage, usually in the form of red envelopes of "taxi money." However, these payments are usually several times higher than the cost of even extended taxi trips.

According to earlier media reports, the hotel had offered 500 yuan for a positive article of 100-500 words in length, and 1,000 yuan for a longer article. The hotel made the offer in a handout printed on hotel stationery and presented to journalists attending a press conference held Friday by the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad.

Reuters journalist Nick Mulvenney filed a story about the bribe offer itself, and the story was immediately picked up by media outlets in China and around the world.

Zhao insisted said that she was misquoted by Reuters when she told the agency that the hotel wanted to take advantage of the Olympics to promote its brand. She told The Hollywood Reporter that there will be no payments to journalists.