Monthly newsletter: October 2017
Message from Keith


Fake news is everywhere, and growing more sophisticated. But fortunately, so are the efforts to combat it.

That is my takeaway from the last few weeks. That included a series of luncheon talks by JMSC professors on the topic “Journalism In the Age of ‘Fake News’”, and also a four-day trip to Cambodia, where I was a guest of the Royal University of Phnom Penh, which is interested in training their students and staff in news literacy.

The fake news problem differs from place to place, along with the definition of what constitutes fake news. In the U.S., during the 2016 election, fake news was primarily bogus reports and advertorials, usually dressed up to appear as if coming from legitimate news sources, and often manufactured in Russia or Eastern Europe aimed influencing Americans’ voting behaviour.

In Cambodia, the fake news comes from pro-government websites that channel unfounded rumours and conspiracies about shadowy Western forces trying to foment “colour revolutions” aimed at overthrowing Prime Minister Hun Sen’s government.

Sometimes, fake news can be satirical—phoney news pieces meant to be funny until taken seriously, like when The Onion newspaper in the U.S. named North Korean leader Kim Jong-un as “The Sexiest Man Alive.” China’s state media was taken in by the prank. And then there was the widely reported story of the African migrant from Senegal who chronicled his arduous journey to Spain on Instagram, except it was later proven to be a hoax, a piece of performance art concocted to draw attention to the real plight of refugees.

Now JMSC students are learning how to spot fake news using tools learned in the Cyber News Verification Lab and by taking the basic steps taught in news literacy to verify the accuracy of sources before sharing reports on social media. We are fortunate to have partnered with Facebook and with the Google News Lab University Network at the forefront of fighting this proliferation of fake news.

The fake news problem is unlikely to disappear anytime soon. In fact, it is likely to get worse.  Face-morphing technology and voice manipulation tools now make it possible to create realistic-looking but fake news footage of public figures appearing to say virtually anything.

But I’m not worried. When I see all the innovations here at JMSC, and when I see the spreading popularity of news literacy, I’m confident that old-fashioned journalistic truth telling will carry the day. Fake news has always been with us—it just migrated from the supermarket tabloids at the grocery store checkout stand to the unruly sphere of cyberspace. We just need to keep our antenna up and call it out as fake, or treat it like the tabloid parody that it is.
Keith Richburg
JMSC Director

Highlights last month

Three of our recent Master of Journalism graduates made a big splash in September with their in-depth report "Divine to divide: How Occupy Central split Hong Kong's Christian leaders" in the South China Morning Post. In the photo from left to right is the crack team of Jayson Albano, Marta Colombo, and Maria Cristhin Kuiper.

JMSC master's grads Jason Chan and Gabriel Yiu received an Honorary Mention at this year's Sundance Film Festival: Hong Kong Short Film Competition for their documentary, "Forge Ahead". Hear them talk about the inspiration behind their film.

The JMSC held a series of public lunchtime talks about “Journalism in the Age of ‘Fake News’”. Read this report by Martin Choi (BJ, 2018) about the talks given by Dr. King-Wa Fu, Dr. Masato Kajimoto, and Anne Kruger.

Faculty & Staff News
Two adjunct lecturers joined the JMSC faculty this semester--Marian Liu (CNN) and Eric Wishart (AFP). They'll be teaching graduate-level courses in digital journalism and long-form and feature writing.
JMSC lecturer Sharron Fast spoke on a panel moderated by Doreen Weisenhaus, director of the Media Law Project, at the two-day "Privacy, Personality and Flows of Information 3rd Edition: Asian Perspectives for Privacy as a Global Human Right" conference that was held at the HKU Faculty of Law.
Honorary Research Fellow Ching Cheong is on a multi-city speaking tour in North America, which includes screenings of the documentary "Vanished Archives" about the 1967 riots, to share his observations of Hong Kong since the handover and his insight of what is to come.
Selected Articles by Faculty & Staff

14 September  – South China Morning Post: Hong Kong quest for the Tesla of food, so world can still feed itself in 2050 by changing diets and farming more sustainably, by Marianne Bray

19 September – East Asia Forum: New regulations forcing China’s online ideas market out of business, by David Bandurski

20 September – Nikkei Asian Review: A bad year for free press, by Keith B. Richburg

21 September – CNN: K-pop group's record breaking album conquers three continents, by Marian Liu

Selected Articles by Students & Alumni
5 September – Hong Kong Free Press: ‘We are part of Hong Kong society’: Domestic workers campaign for HK$5,500 liveable wage, by Suhas Bhat (MJ, 2018)

12 September – Bloomberg Markets: Hong Kong Finance Chief Warns Again of Property Risk on Fed, by Fion Li (BJ, 2007)

20 September – South China Morning Post: Student union removes Hong Kong independence banner – but warns it may come back, co-written by Billy SK Wong (BJ, 2015)

25 September – Quartz: Nine years ago Warren Buffett bet on an unknown Chinese battery maker, and it’s sort of paying off, by Echo Huang (MJ, 2016) and Tripti Lahiri

27 September – Wall Street Journal: Ross Presses China to Level Playing Field for U.S. Businesses, by Natasha Khan (MJ, 2011)

Coming up this month

The JMSC will be hosting two talks with authors of the recently published Penguin Hong Kong Series. Antony Dapiran and JMSC alumnus Christopher DeWolf will discuss the role of Hong Kong's increasingly contested space in the practice of daily life and public protest on 12 October.

On 26 October, Ben Bland and Simon Cartledge will look at what underlies the discontent of young people in the city. The talks will be held in the JMSC TV studio and live-streamed on our Facebook page. Viewers are welcome to send questions to the panel over Facebook.

The Hong Kong Documentary Initiative and the HKU General Education Unit will be presenting six screenings of documentaries that revolve around different aspects of Hong Kong's past two decades. Details here.

The HKDI will also be hosting a screening of Still Tomorrow (in Putonghua with Chinese and English subtitles and Q&A in Putonghua) from 7-9pm on 13 Oct. Free admission, info here.

JMSC director Keith Richburg and Simon Shen Xu-hui, director of the Global Studies Programme at CUHK, will be speaking after a screening of the 2011 documentary "We Come As Friends" about South Sudan on 23 Oct. The screening and talk are co-presented by M+ and the Hong Kong Arts Centre to accompany Hong Kong’s collateral event at the Venice Biennale 2017, "Samson Young: Songs for Disaster Relief".