Award-Winning Alumnus Takes on VOA String

Ivan Broadhead, who graduated from the JMSC Master of Journalism programme in 2006, has taken on the Voice of America (VOA) string in Hong Kong.

Ivan Broadhead

Voice of America is the official external radio, television and internet broadcaster of the American government. Broadhead reports for its international radio news. His first two stories focussed on the controversial Hong Kong constituency by-elections and the Foxconn suicides in Shenzhen.

“Radio news has been my passion ever since I was young. I don’t think there is a more intimate, direct or effective medium,” he said. “I have wanted to work in radio forever, it’s just been a case of finding a way to make that happen.”

Prior to working for VOA, Broadhead was a freelance investigative journalist based in Hong Kong. His half hour investigative radio documentary, aired in June 2010, won him a gold medal at the Hong Kong Consumer Rights Reporting Awards. His documentary, Shellfish Habits, was aired in December last year on RTKH 3.

He researched, wrote, presented and produced the programme himself and Sarah Passmore at RTHK edited it. It looks at the drug and abalone trade between Hong Kong and South Africa.

To make this documentary, Broadhead travelled to Southern Africa for eight weeks to expose the links between triads, abalone smuggling and crystal meth and revealed how Hong Kong is feeding the South African drugs and AIDS crisis.

Investigative journalism is not without danger — he was arrested and questioned in Mozambique and had a revolver thrown at him during a police bust in one of the South African townships.

Broadhead has a lot of practice at covering difficult topics. Over the last few years he has written about child smuggling between Nepal and India, the nuclear legacy in the Marshall Islands half way between the Philippines and Hawaii, and secured the only English language interview with the Dalai Lama at the 50th anniversary of his exile from Tibet.

However, all the while he’s been looking  for a way to realise his dream of working in radio. The break he needed came through the JMSC. Barry Kalb, longtime journalist and recent VOA editor, tipped Broadhead off that Kate Dawson, VOA’s Bangkok-based Asia-Pacific bureau chief, was looking for a stringer in Hong Kong.

Broadhead says that it’s not just the contacts that he gained from his time at the JMSC that have furnished him well.

“The MJ course gave me a real breadth of experience, reinforced my belief in my own skills and above all gave me access to a really experienced pool of journalists who run and teach at the faculty.”

When he studied his MJ there was no radio course. “I lobbied hard for radio to be added to the syllabus and I am delighted to see it’s now taught to upcoming students,” he says. “Radio gets forgotten among all the new media but it’s always there and it’s a refined medium worth attention.”

Angharad Law

Angharad Law, a visiting lecturer at the JMSC, teaches Radio Production to both BJs and MJs.

“I have always loved radio above all other media and I can completely understand why Ivan wants to do this job,” said Law.

“The great thing about radio is that you are involved in the idea from its concept right through to it’s transmission — you research, record, edit, script and voice your own pieces. It’s one of the few media where you can maintain that level of control over your work which makes it incredibly satisfying.”