USA Today, which claims to “represent the voice of an entire nation,” has accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising fees to promote an outlet controlled by the Chinese Communist Party.
Documents filed with the U.S. Department of Justice show that China Daily has paid $287,500 since last October to advertise in USA Today. The Beijing government controls the operations of China Daily, which has also paid large fees to other U.S. media companies, including the Los Angeles Times, Time, and Foreign Policy magazine.
Some fees have been for advertising and other times they have been paid to have articles published as part of the Chinese campaign to spread its propaganda in Western democracies.
The USA Today relationship with China Daily is being exposed to new scrutiny after major American newspapers including the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal have terminated advertising contracts with the Chinese outlet because of the undue foreign influence threatened by such arrangements.
Various human rights advocacy groups have sharply criticized U.S. media companies for publishing articles supportive of the Chinese Communist Party’s policies originated by China Daily.
The filings with the Justice Department were required beginning in 2020 in order to disclose the details of payments by China Daily to U.S. firms. The foreign outlet initially indicated that it paid more than $19 million to private American media outlets since November 2016.
USA Today is likely in great need of the China-sourced revenue. The paper saw the steepest fall in circulation of any major U.S. newspaper last year, falling 62% from 2020 to 2021. The paper did not respond to media requests from the Washington Free Beacon asking where the China Daily content was published.
Other outlets have been shown to reprint the content as part of “paid content” sections. For example, Time has printed material prepared by China Daily as part of a “ChinaWatch” insert without always disclosing who paid for having the content published.
The USA Today’s “code of ethical conduct” states that the outlet will not “blur the line between advertising and editorial content.” The code says the paper will provide transparent disclosures and avoid any commercial endorsements by its writers. It says that the paper will not allow sponsorships of news to “determine, change, or restrict content.”