Monthly newsletter: August 2017
Message from Keith


I came away heartened after attending this summer’s Asian American Journalists Association’s national convention in Philadelphia in July.

What was heartening was seeing so many Asian American journalists and journalism students, hundreds of them, many of them who have reached the top ranks of the profession, in newsrooms and on television. It’s a remarkable American success story, particularly compared to nearly 40 years ago when I first started as a journalist, and any minority reporter in a newsroom—black, Hispanic and especially Asian American—was a pretty rare sight.

It was a reminder to me that the glass can always be half-full, even though it is sometimes tempting to see it as half-empty.

I’m aware of the statistics that show newsroom diversity moving at an agonisingly slow pace. The American Society of News Editors found in its survey last year that minorities make up just 17 % of newsroom workforces, in the 646 newspapers and 91 digital-only sites. The number is not bad—but nowhere near the 37% of minorities in the U.S. population. The survey also found a dearth of minorities at the top editors’ ranks where news decisions get made.

Diversity in newsrooms is about more than just catching and calling out stereotypes and subtle racism, although that is important too. A few more Asian American news editors may have stopped Fox News last year from airing an openly racist segment making fun of Asians speaking with accented English in New York’s Chinatown.

More importantly, minority editors can help shape stories and provide context—as when the New York Times sensitively covered the 2014 shooting of an unarmed black man, Akai Gurley, by Chinese-American rookie police officer Peter Liang in a darkened housing project stairwell.

But newsroom diversity means more than just adding minority voices, and that’s important to remember in Hong Kong, China, and the rest of Asia. For newsrooms to accurately reflect and report on the populations they cover, they need female journalists as well as reporters from different family backgrounds—the children of migrant workers and farmers, as well as the children of teachers and doctors. We need LGBTQ voices in newsrooms. We need reporters who hail from China’s hinterlands, not just the prosperous coasts. We need to have more Tibetan and Uigher reporters.

If there was any doubt about the importance of having diverse newsrooms, I was reminded again this summer when I stopped in my hometown of Detroit on the way to Philadelphia.  This summer marked the 50th anniversary of the deadly Detroit riots of 1967, which I remember vividly since my old neighbourhood was right in the middle of the violence. The five-day riot left 43 people dead and more than 2,000 buildings burned in one of the worst urban insurrections in American history.

The Kerner Commission, set up by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the riots, blamed inequality, segregation and police brutality for the unrest. But the commission had particularly strong criticism for the news media for failing to reflect reality, and it said the key was to create more diverse newsrooms that reflected the societies they cover. 

 “The media report and write from the standpoint of a white mans world,” the commission wrote in its report. “The ills of the ghetto, the difficulties of life there, (black America’s) burning sense of grievance, are seldom conveyed.” It said minorities believed the mainstream media “repeatedly, if unconsciously, reflects the biases, the paternalism, the indifference of white America. This may be understandable, but it is not excusable in an institution that has the mission to inform and educate the whole of our society.”

Strong words then. And just as true today.

Keith Richburg
JMSC Director
Highlights last month
2011 MJ graduate Vincent Du received a seed grant of HK$150,000 from the Hong Kong Documentary Initiative for his film China's Forgotten Daughters, which will be submitted to international film festivals for consideration. The Seed Grants Programme supports emerging documentary filmmakers with cash grants and mentorship from award-winning filmmakers. Produced by JMSC Honorary Professor Ruby Yang, the film tells the story of a daughter's impassioned search for her birth family and the human cost of the one-child policy.

BBC World Questions host Jonathan Dimbleby and panelists Ronald Arculli, Holden Chow, Emily Lau and Joshua Wong faced a full house in Rayson Huang Theatre on 4 July during a public debate co-hosted by the JMSC. The latest installment of the BBC World Service programme was held in Hong Kong to mark the 20th anniversary of the handover. The panel debated questions from the audience ranging from universal suffrage to cage homes. Listen to the programme here.

Master classes with Oscar documentarians
The Hong Kong Documentary Initiative, along with the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, co-organized a series of master classes from 23 June-23 July. The workshops were aimed at experienced filmmakers, documentary makers and film students alike.
Creating high quality non-fictional films with accessible technology, the initiative brings three award-winning filmmakers in different technical fields to give a series of master classes: cinematography with Oscar-nominated director James Longley, sound mixing and design with Dan Olmsted, and colour correction with Gary Coates.

Faculty & Staff News
Anne Kruger, JMSC Assistant Professor of Practice and project leader of the Cyber News Verification Lab, joined a team of experts from around Asia to create a new framework for implementing digital citizenship standards across the region. Anne's focus was on ICT skills and news media literacy critical thinking. The 3-day workshop in Bangkok was co-organized by UNESCO Bangkok and Google Asia Pacific. It's part of UNESCO’s “Digital Kids Asia-Pacific” project, which was launched in response to the growing need to understand children’s actual use of information and communication technology and to leverage the opportunities and navigate risk as a digital citizen. The framework will be finessed by UNESCO and presented to the education ministries around Asia for formal implementation into schools.
Assistant Professor of Practice Masato Kajimoto spoke at the International Symposium on Stem Education on 29 July. Organized by HKU's Academy for the Talented, the 3-day symposium brought together 100 students from across the globe and explored how technology impacts our social lives and interactions. The aim of the event was to enhance students’ interests in technology learning, creativity, innovation, and their ability to integrate cross-disciplinary knowledge with the application of their skills.
Articles by Faculty & Staff

4 July – The Interpreter: China and Hong Kong: ‘One country above all’, by Vivienne Chow

2 July – South China Morning Post: Why Hong Kong was glad to se the back of 'white coolies', by Keith B. Richburg

1 July – South China Morning Post: How Hong Kong handover blinded media to story of the decade, Keith B. Richburg

1 July – Eco-Business: Can Carrie Lam make Hong Kong a green hub?, by Marianne Bray

Articles by Students & Alumni
26 July – The News Lens: From Hong Kong to Italy and Back: Heidi Li Sings Her Multicultural Journey, by Marta Colombo (MJ, 2017)

20 July – The News Lens: Zunzi's Hong Kong: Leading Political Cartoonist Looks Back, by Chun Robert Qiao (MJ, 2017)

15 July – Medium: The Biodiversity of Asia's 'World City, by Jonas Thomas Kelsch (MJ, 2017)

14 July – Asia Times Online: Cracks in the firewall: China’s VPN game of cat-and-mouse, by Lin Wanxia (MJ, 2016)

7-13 July – Nepali Times: Taking the lead on lead, by Sonia Awale (MJ, 2016)

12 July – The Wall Street Journal: Race for Self-Driving Cars Gears Up in China, by Eva Tam (MJ, 2012)

3 July – Quartz: Once an Asian aviation pioneer, Cathay Pacific is now struggling to leave behind its past, by Echo Huang (MJ, 2016)
1 July – Xi Jinping Warns Hong Kong on Separatism as Marchers Call for Greater Autonomy, by Kevin Lui (MJ, 2015)

1 July – South China Morning Post: Annual July 1 pro-democracy march in Hong Kong draws record low turnout: police, co-written by Jane Li (MJ, 2014)

Coming up this month

Masato Kajimoto and Anne Kruger will be in Ho Chi Minh City for the 2017 Summer Institute for News Literacy Fellows in Asia from 1-3 August. It is the first time that the Institute—a series of news literacy workshops targeted at media educators and practitioners from Southeast Asian countries―will be held in Vietnam.

The Institute is organised in collaboration with the Center for News Literacy at Stony Brook University in the U.S., and has been offering news literacy training to educators since 2012. This summer’s Institute will be hosted by the Faculty of Journalism and Communication at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, part of VNU-HCM.