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JMSC students learn adaptability is key to “real world” journalism on winter internships around Asia

From refining interview techniques to experimenting with different writing and video production styles, JMSC students learnt that adaptability is key to producing effective journalism during their recent winter internships.

Fifty Master of Journalism (MJ) students got real world experience working with news organisations around Asia in December and January.

Along with local and international media outlets in Hong Kong and mainland China, destinations this year also included Malaysiakini in Malaysia, Mizzima in Myanmar and the Nepali Times in Nepal.


Faces of Nepal: by Kristina Shperlik (left), Pan Lan (centre) and Qiu Tian (right)

“The experience taught me to deal with and adapt to different people,” said Therese Reyes, who did her internship at Quartz in Hong Kong. She quickly adjusted to the fast pace of the newsroom which helped her learn to write more quickly.

“Being in a newsroom setting really helped a lot: you end up adapting to the rhythms of the people you work with, which helps you figure out your own personal routine,” she said.

Reyes, who is from the Philippines, also learnt about adapting her interview style for different subjects to encourage them to open up more, including switching languages if necessary.

“My language skills proved to be an asset … They allowed me to establish a deeper connection with and understanding of the overseas Filipino workers I interviewed.”

Reyes made use of her native Tagalog when interviewing domestic helpers in Hong Kong for this story and also this piece.

Juliette Li Xinrui and Zhang Hao went to Malaysiakini in Kuala Lumpur

Juliette Li Xinrui and Zhang Hao went to Malaysiakini in Kuala Lumpur and discovered a creative way to produce videos that the online news organisation uses to meet the timeliness requirements of its internet-based audience.

Zhang Hao said that Malaysiakini’s video reports were sometimes “simply composed of text, photos or archive videos, made in pursuit of timeliness especially when breaking news comes in, but with no current photos or clips at hand.”

“Malaysiakini’s videos still get a lot of views and make money from advertising though,” Zhang Hao added. “Every news organisation has their way of doing things and we just needed to adjust ourselves to fit in.”

Huang Qinglan and Shen Yiqian joined Brightwire, a New York-based financial news agency focused on investors, and said that they learnt how to adapt their writing styles for financial news reports.

“You have to be precise and concise in finance and business reports—investors want to access accurate information quickly so you have to package it together in one concise piece,” said Huang Qinglan. “You have to get rid of all the adjectives!”

While all students emphasised how quickly they learnt the importance of being flexible and following the established practices of the newsrooms where they interned, they also had opportunities to pitch their own stories and suggest alternative ways of doing things.

Pan Lan, Qiu Tian and Kristina Shperlik flew to Nepal where they interned at the Nepali Times

Pan Lan, Qiu Tian and Kristina Shperlik flew to Nepal where they interned at the Nepali Times. Shperlik said that the small newsroom with only five people welcomed their ideas and they successfully pitched stories about online trade between Nepal and China, transnational Nepali-Chinese marriages, and the status of nuns in the country.

Wei Shuhang, who interned at FT Chinese in Beijing (along with Kuki Zhu Xiuxi, Zhang Boning and Andy Liu Zhaohui), said that all interns with the newspaper are expected to pitch stories themselves. Zhang Boning pitched, researched and wrote this story about the heavy smog in Beijing, and more stories that the students pitched themselves are in the process of being edited.

The five students (Ernest Chan, Elsie Chen, Yizhen Jia, Zhang Deming Tedmond and Deng Yang) who interned with Mizzima in Myanmar also had the opportunity to seek out and pitch stories independently. Yizhen Jia pitched and then wrote this story about Chinese learners in the country.

In other assignments at Mizzima, students videoed and photographed Aung San Suu Kyi, and Elsie Chen took this photo during a hot air balloon ride which was used on the cover of Mizzima Weekly.

The JMSC has an extensive internship network with leading international media organisations and the majority of MJ students complete internships as part of the programme, giving them an opportunity to apply the skills they have developed in the classroom.

This year internship partners included The New York Times, CNN, Quartz, Agence France-Presse, the Associated Press and Bloomberg Businessweek in Hong Kong; FT Chinese, Caixin and GoKunming in mainland China; and Malaysiakini (Malaysia), Mizzima (Myanmar) and the Nepali Times (Nepal) in the wider Asian region.

Visit the JMSC Facebook page or Twitter feed for more examples of work published by MJ students during their recent internships, including more photos here.

A team of five students interned at Mizzima in Myanmar; Zhang Deming Tedmond photographed Aung San Suu Kyi making a speech for the 100th anniversary of the scouting movement in Myanmar; Elsie Chen’s hot air balloon photo was used on the cover of the print edition of Mizzima Weekly

[Feature image: Sunrise at Bagan, Myanmar, by Zhang Deming Tedmond]