Leanne Wang, who received her Master of Journalism diploma from the JMSC in 2008, turned freelancing into a staff job at a leading mainland business news organization. She recommends this path to other writers:
I did a part-time diploma at the JMSC in 2007-08. Taking the course was the first step for me to make a change into journalism. Before that, I had quite a few years of experience, mostly in the marketing communications field.
The second step was to practice, and the way I chose was through freelancing.
When I was a freelancer, I wrote for China Business News, or CBN, Hong Kong Securities (a trade magazine belonging to the Hong Kong Securities Institute), and a business news website, www.chinastakes.com. Most of my work was for CBN.
CBN, which belongs to the Shanghai Media Group, is a leading financial medium in China. It has six platforms: TV (on NOW TV, Channel 338 in Hong Kong), radio, a daily newspaper, a weekly magazine, a website, and a research institute. I started working for the newspaper as a freelancer in May of 2008, and within a half year, I had about seven stories hit the front page. I was invited to join the Shanghai headquarters of CBN early this year, and now cover overseas financial markets and commodities.
Hong Kong is an important gateway for mainland companies (including government funds) to get access to the international capital markets. Therefore, the financial media in China pay a lot of attention to Hong Kong business stories, which created a very good opportunity for me (and people with similar background and skill sets) to write for them as a freelancer.
Freelancing offered me a unique opportunity to explore different areas of financial journalism. I covered company news, such as the Citic Pacific forex loss scandal; the stock and property markets; funds, including mutual funds, hedge funds and sovereign wealth funds (such as the China Investment Corp and the State Administration of Foreign Exchange); government economic policy; derivatives such as the Lehman Brothers minibonds, and alternative investments such as Islamic finance. I attended many press conferences, forums and seminars, including the Clinton Global Initiative and the CLSA Investor Forum.
Since many mainland companies are listed on the Hong Kong stock Exchange, they have to disclose information to HKEx and hold press conferences in Hong Kong. This created chances for me to report China stories from Hong Kong. One example was the melamine scandal, in which Mengniu, the leading diary producer in China, and others were found to be putting the dangerous chemical melamine into their milk products.
English skills and international exposure are also highly desirable in writing for the mainland media, as executive readers in China are eager to know about the international financial markets and the global economy. I have interviewed analysts from leading investment banks and western economists, which has given my news stories a global perspective.
I don’t think I could have ever learned so much and grown so fast to become a mature and versatile financial reporter without this freelancing experience. I think journalism students who have solid working experience and knowledge about business should consider freelancing as a way to break into this competitive industry, especially while the industry is under heavy pressure due to the global economic crisis.