Viral Story of Lost Homework Leads to Critique of Sensationalist News

A Chinese influencer’s efforts to return a homework assignment lost in Paris stir up controversy, attracting attention from national media outlets

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6:23 PM HKT, Fri March 1, 2024 1 mins read

Imagine this: A female blogger with a whopping ten million followers drops a video that unexpectedly explodes across the internet, racking up five million likes in no time. The buzz? All about one Chinese elementary school student’s lost winter homework, found in Paris. It’s a scenario that none, including the blogger herself, could have foreseen, let alone predict the flood of media attention from giants like CCTV and Beijing Daily.

This story starts in Paris, where the blogger, Thurman 猫一杯, shared a quirky incident: a French waiter handed her a stack of homework workbooks in Chinese which he found in a restroom, hoping she could help find its young owner. With a mix of curiosity and goodwill, she started documenting her mission to return the homework, and shared that it belonged to a first-grade student named Qin Lang.

Immediately, an internet-wide search for the first-grader began to boil, reaching a climax when a supposed “uncle” of Qin Lang stepped in. The “relative” posted several videos on Douyin, claiming that his nephew was a student missing his winter holiday homework from a certain “Sichang Elementary School.” But soon, the truth surfaced — there was no Qin Lang at the aforementioned school, and the “uncle” was just another attention seeker, who was ultimately banned from the platform.

Despite waves of similar controversy, Thurman has maintained that she did not fabricated anything, stressing she never specified which school Qin Lang attended. She even shared a chat with Qin Lang’s mom, who thanked her for her effort. She wrapped up the tale on her end by asserting the homework had been returned, and all was resolved. But skeptics questioned the authenticity of the screenshot and chat history.

The chat screenshot the internet has been arguing over. Image via Weibo.

Yet the biggest surprise was when CCTV got involved, publishing a critique of the incident titled “It doesn’t matter Who Qin Lang Is: The Danger of Rampant Yellow Journalism.” The national media outlet’s article slams the hunger for sensational, lowbrow news (so-called yellow journalism) that skimps on societal value, merely feeding the public’s hunger for entertainment.

Some argue that any lighthearted news providing a quick laugh holds merit, and are understanding of Thurman’s actions. One Weibo user stated “As a blogger, the need to keep uploading and stay relevant has made yellow journalism an everyday routine action.” Others, supporting CCTV’s stance, note how bizarre it is that a minor incident like a lost homework could become headline news. One Weibo user commented, “These influencers without bottom-lines are really repulsive.”

All in all, the incident was more than slightly strange, showing how an ostensible feel-good story — premised on the economic prosperity needed to take a quick trip from China to France — can quickly take a turn towards controversy.

Banner image via Weibo

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