JMSC – A Decade of Experiential Learning

Experiential learning — learning through doing — has been an integral part of the JMSC since the School’s inception in 1999, through its practical, hands-on classes and its extensive internship programme.

Jennifer Cheung interning at Voice of America in Beijing

Jennifer Cheung interning at Voice of America in Beijing

More than a decade on, the JMSC is expanding its internship network as experiential learning becomes a central element of the curriculum at HKU.

The Director of the JMSC Professor Ying Chan says internships are at the heart of the School’s programmes.

“Internships have always been an integral part of the JMSC’s programme.  For a practical discipline like journalism, there is no substitute for learning in real life situations under the guidance of industry experts. We are grateful to our industry partners for their support.”

Journalism in a digital age requires a multi-functional brain, one that combines a keen and questioning mind with the high levels of technical ability required to independently and critically report and write stories, and also to operate cameras, upload audio and edit and present articles using digital equipment and software.

The Centre’s curriculum for both Bachelor and Master of Journalism students caters to all these requirements.  It offers a broad spectrum of courses that address the academic sphere, for example Media Law, Critical Issues in Journalism and Global Communication and Literary Journalism. It also covers practical skills, for example Television News Production, News Photography, Multimedia Production, Online Journalism, Radio Production, News and Feature Writing and Reporting Public Health.

Clement Rossignol, a Master of Journalism student from France, is especially pleased with the practical nature of the course.

Clement Rossignol

Clement Rossignol

“It is really good for people with limited experience in journalism because through the numerous practical assignments that we do we build up a portfolio of written articles, videos, TV scripts, radio bulletins, as well as getting familiarised with online publishing tools.”

His favourite class is adjunct lecturer Rob McBride‘s Video Production.

“We all love this course because we all start from scratch and learn how to find a story, seek out interviewees, set up interviews, write scripts, use cameras, how to edit and produce pieces — it really is a crash course.”

As universities in Hong Kong move towards a four year curriculum in 2012, all programmes have started to include internships and work placements as part of their courses.

The JMSC is ahead of the curve. It has a decade of experience of placing students in internships, mostly, but not exclusively in, media internships in both Chinese and English organisations. Many are in Hong Kong and mainland China. Others are in Europe, the Americas, Southern Africa and elsewhere in Asia. These widely varying internships allow students to put into practice what they’ve learned on campus. Such placements involve students in not only the local community, but also help them become global citizens through international exposure.

Media Internships offer students the chance to experience life as a journalist first-hand. The JMSC has established a wide internship network with dozens of local, regional and international media partners. Over the recent winter break students gained valuable experience working for, amongst others, the following media organisations: ABC, Al Jazeera, NTV, The Standard, CNN, Bloomberg, Phnom Penh Post, SCMP, Hong Kong Magazine, CNNGo.com, Yazhou Zhoukan, Jakarta Globe, Financial Times, Voice of America and CCTV.

Jinzhi Dong

Jinzhi Dong producing for Al Jazeera English

Jinzhi Dong, a Master of Journalism student from mainland China, spent a month at Al Jazeera English Beijing Bureau where she helped find interviewees for the news, then assisted the team with shooting and interviewing.

I learnt that collecting good news sources and adaptability are two of the main things required at an international news channel. Al Jazeera English broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week – so you need to be able to gather news from a good contacts list quickly at all times of day. I also learnt the importance of time management and the ability to change plans – when we were covering the Copenhagen Climate Summit the live-on-air time we were planning towards shifted forwards by 10 hours – everybody needs to be ready for breaking news.”

Bachelor of Journalism student, Sabrina Wu, who is Hong Kong Chinese, worked at Hong Kong Broadband News (HKBN), a small, local 24-hour news provider.  She said that working in a small scale organisation with limited funding allowed her to take on much more responsibility than she might have had in a much bigger organisation.

Sabrina

Sabrina Wu working for HKBN

“Working in a small-sized news agency was a challenging yet fruitful experience. I was given opportunities that other bigger news agencies might not dare to give an intern student. I was on the spot at the HSBC annual result press conference and I was given freedom to do feature stories. This internship experience marked a great start to my life as a journalist.”

In some cases, internships have led to full-time jobs.

The JMSC faculty, with their combined and extensive experience in the industry, have helped to secure internship placements. Jim Laurie, Director of the Broadcasting Programme, co-ordinates the internship placements.

“Internships provide a great opportunity for students to get a sense of the real world of journalism with all its pressures and deadlines. In the past we’ve had a number of students who’ve gone on from internships into paying jobs at various international news organisations.”

One such alumni, Cornelius Rahn, who graduated last summer, now works at Bloomberg in his native Germany as the result of an internship that got him first noticed, then hired. He had previously interned at at the Phnom Penh Post in Cambodia, where he says he gained valuable writing skills and confidence in his abilities.

“In the end, I wrote over a dozen of stories about politics, sports and country life in Cambodia and saw the country as it would have been impossible to see as a tourist. And even though I was still a beginner, I knew then that I could “do” journalism.”

Cornelius credits the JMSC with giving him the skills required to do the job, through both his classes and the internships.

“It’s here at HKU that I learnt all the basics: sorting facts into a logical structure, writing clean copy, and most importantly not being afraid of approaching sources.”