Persistence, independence, proactive pitching of stories and “doing your homework” are key attributes for budding journalists, according to JMSC masters students who have just completed their winter internships.
Internships are a core component of the Master of Journalism programme at the JMSC, and each year students are placed with media organisations across Asia to gain real-world experience in writing, reporting, editing and broadcasting.
More than 50 students completed work experience in December and January at media organisations including CNN.com, Agence France-Presse and RTHK in Hong Kong, Southern Metropolis Daily and FT Chinese in mainland China, the Indonesia Channel in Jakarta and Mongol TV in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
At a recent group presentation to discuss their experiences and lessons, Du Yijie, who worked at Southern Weekly in Guangzhou, China, said she kept getting refusals for interviews on one story she was reporting on, and learned how important it was to be persistent.
“Never give up, always make phone calls and don’t be afraid of being rejected,” she said of her experience. “You need to keep pushing.
Ophelia Ma, who did her internship with the Southern Metropolis Daily in Guangzhou, said her initial struggles with pitching stories to her editors eventually gave her a greater sense of confidence.
“At first I was quite intimidated. I pitched numerous stories and kept getting knocked back, so I had a lot of frustration,” she said. “But I learned a lot and kept trying, and eventually went and reported on the ground…I was really grateful for the experience.”
Joyce Liu, who worked at the Indonesia Channel, faced a challenge common to all reporters when she realised that problems frequently have to be solved without help from anyone else. “We learned we had to be very independent to tackle any problems on our own,” she said.
Through persistence and hard work, many of the interns had their work published or broadcast on stories including labour rights activism in China, persistent air pollution in Ulaanbaatar, the best places to eat and drink in Beijing, and the experiences of a group of self-driving Chinese tourists in Myanmar.
William Chang, the JMSC’s internship coordinator, said applying lessons from the classroom to the workplace can help students get a clearer idea of the future path they want to take, as well as give them a taste of some of the hurdles they may face in their future career.
“Getting a taste of the real world helps students figure out what direction they want to head in and it allows students to try other mediums that are not their traditional domains,” he said.
“It was interesting to see how some of the students reacted to internal policies and issues such as censorship,” he said. “They learn as much as in any classroom and get to see some of the challenges they may face.”