By George Russell
Neither intermittent rain nor the prospect of transport network disruptions dissuaded the incoming Bachelor of Journalism (BJ) and Master of Journalism (MJ) classes from their orientation days in the last week of August.
The new BJ students gathered in the Digital Media Lab at Eliot Hall on August 28 to be welcomed by Jeffrey Timmermans, Associate Professor of Practice and Director of the BJ Programme, meet faculty and academic advisers, andsample a taste of investigation with a fun fact-checking exercise.
Keith Richburg, JMSC Director, also addressed the class. “It’s great to see this enthusiastic new cohort about to embark on this journalism journey at this critical time for the media,” he said.
There are 32 first year undergraduate students, who hail from Hong Kong, mainland China, South Korea, India and the United Kingdom. Of those, 17 were admitted through the Joint University Programmes Admissions System (JUPAS), which provides a platform for students with Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education examination results. Another 14 students were admitted through non-JUPAS means, and one student was admitted through the gaokao examination taken in China.
Dr. Timmermans stressed the importance of freedom of speech as a core value. “Without freedom of speech there is no freedom of the press, and without freedom of the press there is no journalism.”
He warned students that the coming four years would be “busy and intense”, and complicated by the volatile situation in Hong Kong. “But,” he added, “It should also be a lot of fun.”
As well as faculty, current and former students also addressed the incoming class. Anna Gustafson (BJ 2019) urged the students to bond, given that it was a such a small class. “It’s easy to grow a network that you can leverage in finding a job,” said Anna, who moved to Hong Kong four years earlier from the United States.
Evelyn Ye (BJ 2020) said the new arrivals should not feel shy about approaching faculty and staff to discuss issues or problems. “Seize opportunities and be brave,” she exhorted the students.
Dr. Timmermans recommended that the students take advantage of the diversity of Common Core courses offered, which have ranged from Rule of Law and the Chinese Cultural Revolution, to Nuclear War and Classical Music Appreciation.
This year’s class of 72 incoming MJ students gathered at the Global Lounge on August 31 for an orientation reconvened from afternoon to morning because of the prospect of street disturbances and transport closures.
Matt Walsh, Director of the MJ Programme, welcomed the students, explaining that the mission of the course was “seeking truth and dispelling lies” through compelling storytelling.
The class includes students from Hong Kong, mainland China, the US, the UK, France, India, South Korea, Singapore, Canada, Portugal, Russia and Ukraine. Of the total, 42 are newly graduated, while 10 have some journalism experience. The others were previously employed in government, the private sector and non-government organizations.
Incoming student Wasi Mirza, who studied in Hong Kong, said one of his motivations for seeking a journalism degree was his desire to be “truthful”, adding that he hoped the course would “grow his skill set”. Originally from Pakistan, Mr. Mirza obtained a bachelor’s degree in social science from the University of Hull while in Hong Kong.
Daisy Dong, from China’s eastern province of Jiangsu, said she hoped the master’s programme would enhance the four years of journalism she studied in the Mainland, adding that the current atmosphere of civil unrest in Hong Kong presented an opportunity. “I think this will offer me a chance to study conflict in society,” she said, adding she had not been dissuaded from moving to Hong Kong.
Yi Liu, from Ordos in Inner Mongolia, said she believed the MJ course would further her journalism career. “I hope to pursue educational journalism in the Mainland,” she said, citing China Youth Daily as among her favourite reading.
Mr. Walsh provided an overview of the course before several alumni took the stage to offer their insights and answer students’ questions.
After a presentation on health, welfare and safety issues on campus, the students broke into groups for discussion with faculty members. After a group photograph, the students and staff repaired to a welcome cocktail reception off campus.
George W. Russell (MJ 2016) is editor-at-large at JMSC and works as an editor in the Financial Times Hong Kong bureau.
Photography by Foon Lee and Li Chen