When JMSC Senior Teaching Consultant, Diane Stormont, turned up at the JMSC in 1999, a member of the centre’s inaugural Master of Journalism class, she was delighted to find online journalism on the curriculum.
Not everyone was so pleased – it was the height of the “dot-com” boom and the new technology melt-down had yet to bite.
“Online journalism has always been an integral part of the JMSC curriculum,” said Ying Chan, the Founder and Director of the JMSC. “The JMSC was the first programme to teach blogging back in 1999 when Dan Gillmor introduce it to the news media course he taught as a visiting lecturer.”
“The JMSC was also the first journalism school in the world to introduce Wikipedia to students as class assignments in 2003,” she continued. “All our students are required to adopt convergent media, learning to tell stories in print, audio and video and online.”
Outside a pool of diehards, online journalism was considered radical at best. But even so, Stormont, a wire service journalist with nearly two decades of experience, was convinced the internet meant a sea-change was about to embrace journalism. She had already established an online business before entering the JMSC.
More than a decade later, she is on the other side of the lecturn at the JMSC, its third online journalism specialist, helping young journalists develop the skills that many had dismissed as a fad.
This expertise is now regarded as a core requirement of the 21st century journalist.
Online fluency is now regarded as a must-have, taken-for-granted part of the skill-set – along with reporting, interviewing, writing and editing.
Slideshow: A Taste of the JMSC’s online presence:
What used to be seemingly exotic skills taught in stand-alone ‘new media’ classes have moved to the mainstream. Both the JMSC and the University of Hong Kong were early adopters.
“The JMSC has taught online journalism for more than a decade now — since day one. Those early techniques are now used routinely in both undergraduate and post-graduate classes here,” Stormont said.
The Facebook generation enters university equipped with the skills that used to be taught, freeing up time to move to the next level.
“Now I’m focussing more on new developments and apps and finding ways of harnessing them to do better journalism,” she said. “The techniques chosen depend on the requirements of the story being told.”
JMSC students are experimenting with technologies that have yet to become standard in many newsrooms, particularly when it comes to live, interactive reporting.
Only last week a group from this year’s graduating class took the live-streaming and live-blogging interactive skills they learned at the JMSC to provide real-time reporting of a major academic conference for HKU’s Faculty of Education. Click here for the full story.
They did the same when covering an Association of Asian Journalists summit in June. Read here for the full account of that event.
Many JMSC courses routinely establish an interactive news website as a platform for students learning beat skills such as covering China, business journalism, the health and science sector and basic reporting.
“Most of our courses now has incorporated digital media, including social media, as a routine matter,” said Chan.
Other disciplines, such as the JMSC’s Media Law specialists, have developed web-based networks to advance both research and provide legal services to journalists operating in Asia.
The JMSC’s China Media Project, which documents and analyses media reform in China, logs its research on the website cmp.hku.hk — it’s a news site based on blogging technology so that readers can interact. It’s so popular the JMSC had to contract more server space to meet demand.
The introduction of web2.0 is what made the difference. Up until then, the web was merely a platform, an alternative to paper or a TV monitor.
Web2.0 made the web interactive – think Facebook, Skype and Twitter – and put the technology within reach of anyone with an reasonably fast internet connection. Simple interactive websites mean that the learning curve is becoming shallower by the week.
It was not always so.
As a wire service correspondent during the 1990s, including a stint as Reuters Hong Kong bureau chief, Stormont witnessed the internet banned from the bureau.
“We had to hide our computer with its dial-up connection under a desk,” she said. The ban was short-lived and her employer soon moved on to grapple with the opportunities that could result from its newly-registered domain name: reuters.com.
“Next semester we are going to experiment with running a moveable interactive news bureau with text, audio, video and multiple-media apps from a laptop and smartphone,” Stormont said.