With the development of commercial media and Internet, China has recently witnessed a rising number of defamation litigation suing news media. As an individual projection of self in a society, reputation’s social nature makes it difficult to evaluate the compensation for reputation, especially the compensation for the mental suffering, when it is damaged. Little effort has been made to empirically examine the pricing mechanism of individual reputation in defamation courts. Focusing on the role of community in the process of pricing reputation, this study analyses 403 defamation cases where individuals sued news media from 1988 to 2013 in China. By analysing the court documents of the first instance of each case, we investigate how the compensation for the damaged reputation vary by different types of communities. The data reveals that individual Chinese reputation on average was worthy of 6,566 yuan in the libel cases against news media; and 49% of individual plaintiffs received non-monetary compensation. The price of Chinese reputation fluctuated over years: the ordinary people’s reputation decreased their values while the famous and the government officials’ reputation become more expensive in the era of media commercialisation and then dropped since the fifth wave of defamation which started in the mid 2000s. Reputation compensation also varies by the community boundaries constructed by the media: the monetary compensation for the damage caused by party organs was lower than those by non-party organs, more in the less developed regions than the developed ones. Such empirical results invite further discussion on the social construction of reputation by both courts and media and its implications.