For those of us who know them, it comes as no surprise to discover that JMSC student journalists are having their work published and broadcast by major news organisations in Hong Kong, Mainland China and worldwide.
Some students are writing about their own area of expertise, like blogger and new media watcher, Jonathan Stray, whose recent article on the impact of Google withdrawing censorship in Mainland China was published by the International Herald Tribune. The MJ student’s op ed, written here in Hong Kong, was pertinent as Google began redirecting users of its Chinese-language Google.cn site to uncensored servers in the city.
Stray also writes regularly for the Harvard University’s Neiman Lab which focuses on the future of journalism in the internet age. Read his analysis of how different media organisations covered the original Google hacking story here.
“I started writing in January. I pitched an idea to the editor at the Neiman Lab, he liked it, I wrote it, then I pitched some more ideas,” says Stray. “I was researching the evolution of journalism anyway, so it seemed like an obvious move to be writing about it too, especially if it was going to help pay my rent.”
Master of Journalism student, Ma Jinxin contributes regularly to Time Out Hong Kong‘s Big Smog Blog with articles called It Happened Here. Ma takes the current date and tells us how that day has defined Hong Kong history in some way.
She researches these by checking history books from the library in both English and Chinese and looking through newspaper archives to get more vivid details of the event.
Ma is also interested in art and architecture.
“Another Chinese piece I have done is for a magazine called Domus, a top architectural magazine from Italy. With the help of an architect based in Shenzhen, I contributed to its Chinese version on the Shenzhen & Hong Kong Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism. It was published in its 40th issue.”
Liu Ching Hung, a first year Bachelor of Journalism student, writes for Taiwanese English language newspaper, The China Post. Her article about pop star-turned-humanitarian, Harlem Yu Chen-ching told the story of how a trip to Bangladesh with the non-governmental organisation World Vision changed his life.
“I think I still have about three copies of that first newspaper I got my name printed on. You feel like you really made a contribution, and it’s actually in tangible form,” says Lui.
“Even though today’s news is tomorrow’s history and there’s no way to find out the number of people that actually read your article, it’s fulfilling to see the fruits of your accomplishments.”
Several students write for the Global Times, an international newspaper and website run by the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, the People’s Daily. Master of Journalism student, Lu Yueyang, is from Hangzhou in Mainland China. She writes occasional pieces for the People’s Daily, some on events and some observation.
Lu says she found the editor’s e-mail address online and just pitched the story out of the blue. Two weeks later, she received the green light and wrote it. Now that her foot is in the door, she has written more for them.
Her musings on the language of corruption taught to foreigners in Chinese classes is funny yet revelatory. Papers and websites snap up this kind of social commentary; students with an eye for such detail have great success with their opinion pieces.
Some students focus on business journalism. Part time MJ student, Lydia Guo, freelances as a correspondent for the Chinese daily business newspaper, China Business News here in Hong Kong. She started writing for them following a two month internship.
“They give me some assignments, but I also pitch feature stories to the editors. For example, I noticed the discussions about the Hong Kong rail link last November and asked the editor if they wanted a story on the Hong Kong express railway. The story ran last December; I think it was the first Hong Kong railway conflict story to appear in mainland media.”
Guo says that feature stories like this take about a week to complete because they involve more research, travel and interviews. However, she can rustle up quick news stories in less than a day.
Internships are a good way for students to start to get their work published. BJ Year 2 student, Sheena Yap Kah Yan, worked at HK Magazine over the winter break. She worked on the Streetalk Section of the magazine which tells the stories of people who contribute to Hong Kong life in an uncommon way. One of her stories was about the health benefit of Tai Chi.
“I came up with the idea as I noticed that Hong Kong people neglect their health for work most of the time. Many rely on medication to deal with mental and physical fatigue, but it is not good to the body in the long run. On the other hand, tai chi can be a medication-free alternative to health problems, but many wrongly assume that the exercise is only for the elderly. For that reason, I wrote the story to let more people know that tai chi is for all age groups and it can bring benefits to physical and mental health.”
JMSC Students are also getting their work published abroad. See Jie Yi, a Year 2 Bachelor of Journalism student, is currently on an exchange program at the University of Missouri-Columbia’s Journalism School. She has produced a few audio pieces for KBIA 91.3, which is a National Public Radio affiliate.
“Each week when we go down to the radio station, we pitch at least three story ideas to our editors. These story ideas come from various county papers, press releases or even our own internet findings. As a foreigner, this was initially the hardest part of the entire process because I knew nothing about local politics.”
“However, it forces you to learn quickly. Once approved by the editors, you then work on your story. Sometimes, you only need to ring up a source and record an interview in the studio. Other times, you have to attend an event and record interesting sounds with your Marantz recorder.”
See says the experience has broadened her mind about radio.
“I must admit that I was never a big radio fan but this experience has made me realise that there are many interesting things that you can do with audio that you cannot do with other medium.”
Listen to her report on Columbia’s Twitter Festival here: See Jie Yi
Jonathan Stray offers this advice to other students seeking publication: “It can’t hurt to become an expert in some subject, especially if it’s a subject you’re naturally curious about. You don’t have to know more about a story than anyone else, just more about it than anyone else who is pitching ideas to the editor.”
“Whenever you meet someone you find interesting, connected, or knowledgeable, cultivate them as a source even if you don’t know yet what stories they’re going to be able to help you with. Also, write your stories and post them online even if you’re not able to get them published. The practice is important, the feedback from real readers is invaluable, and you’ll develop a body of work to demonstrate your ability.”
Lu Yueyang’s advice is to find a gap and think about your target audience: “I think you have to know what people need specifically for their publication, like what you can offer while their staff cannot. It’s helpful to do some research before you actually pitch. Who are their audience? What “space” you can fill for them?”
Ma Jinxin says, “As someone without any clippings or journalistic experience, just grab any chance to write and get your own bylines.”
So, no more excuses. Get writing, recording, editing and publishing!
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