Monthly newsletter: June 2017
Message from Keith


I was asked recently by a friend here, who moonlights as a newspaper columnist, why the American press these days had become so reliant on anonymous sources in covering the Trump administration.

The implication of his question was obvious. Aren’t anonymous sources always suspect, particularly when there are named White House officials willing to go on the record to refute various accusations in the media? And isn’t all this high-level leaking dangerous for democracy?

I’ll admit to being conflicted about anonymous sources. Since trading my correspondent’s notepad for a teaching role, I’ve been drumming it into the students in my writing courses to steer clear of unnamed sources. Don’t let people hide behind anonymity, I intone. Always try to get a source on the record. If they refuse, ask yourself if the information can be obtained anywhere else. Named sources add credibility and authority to news stories.

And yet. Most of the big scoops involving President Trump have come from anonymous sources. And all of them have proven accurate, despite initial, vigorous denials from White House spokesmen. Trump’s testy phone call with the Australian prime minister was first reported by The Washington Post and other news outlets using unnamed sources and was denied by the White House—until Australian officials confirmed it took place. The Post also used anonymous sources to report that former national security adviser Michael Flynn had secret contacts with Russian officials and then lied about them. The White House denied it until Flynn was fired for those contacts.
The list goes on. Most recently, anonymous sources said Trump trashed the fired F.B.I. director James Comey as a “nut job,” and revealed secret Israeli intelligence to Russians in an Oval Office meeting. Again, it appears the reporting was spot on, based on the White House’s non-denials. 

The point is that anonymous sources are now helping Washington reporters shine a spotlight on this ethically plagued administration. These scoops would not be possible without insiders surreptitiously leaking information about private phone calls and conversations—and the public would be poorer for not knowing. The administration wants to go after the leakers, mainly to stop the embarrassing drip, drip, drip of scandalous information.

I’m old enough to remember the Watergate saga that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency and how most of the Post’s reporting came from an anonymous source high up in the F.B.I. who was known only as “Deep Throat,” because he only spoke on deep background. Nixon, like Trump, was more concerned with plugging the damaging leaks than curtailing potential criminal activities in the White House.

People leak to reporters for a variety of reasons—internal rivalries, self-promotion and, sometimes, a desire to expose wrongdoing and do the right thing. Anonymous sources are essential for journalists to understand what is being hidden. I will still tell my students to get named sources on the record when they can. But in extreme cases—like now, in Washington—they will need to rely on people speaking off the record. They just better make sure their sources are right!

Keith Richburg
JMSC Director
Highlights Last Month
JMSC undergrad wins Human Rights Press Award for second year running
Third-year Bachelor of Journalism student Martin Choi won the English-Language University Broadcast Prize at this year’s Human Rights Press Awards for his piece “Seeking Refuge in Lesvos,” which he co-produced with Christoph Donauer for Read more here.

MJ candidate Zhang Hao named 2017 recipient of Mick Deane Scholarship
Zhang Hao (MJ 2017) has been named the 2017 recipient of the Mick Deane Scholarship for Video Journalism, which carries a HK$20,000 prize. Before coming to the JMSC, Zhang worked as a features writer, on-camera reporter and video editor in Beijing for the English-language channel of Beijing
AAJA Asia’s N3Con returns to JMSC
JMSC hosted AAJA Asia’s annual New.Now.Next Media Conference (N3Con), where JMSC alumni were among the nearly 200 participants attending workshops and panel discussions focusing on timely issues over the three-day event. Read more here.
JMSC hosts the Faculty of Social Sciences at Eliot Hall
JSMC faculty and alumni welcomed Professor John P. Burns, Dean of the HKU Faculty of Social Sciences, and other members of the faculty to a cocktail reception at Eliot Hall on Thursday, May 25. The gathering was an opportunity for JMSC to showcase its brand-new broadcast studio and recording labs and for the faculty members to learn more about our programmes and upcoming plans.
Pulitzer Prize finalist Tom Wright shares top tips for investigative journalism
2016 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting finalist Tom Wright, Journalist-in-Residence at the JMSC and Asia Economics Editor at The Wall Street Journal, gave a talk on key tips for investigative reporting to Bachelor and Master of Journalism students on 4 May.
Faculty & Staff News

Anne Kruger received the Outstanding Oral Presentation Award at the HKU Faculty of Social Sciences 17th Annual Research Postgraduate Conference. Over 80 presenters from Hong Kong, the Mainland and overseas universities participated at the one-day conference where Kruger presented her doctoral thesis on the Cyber News Verification Lab at the JMSC, of which she is the principal investigator.

Keith Richburg spoke at a symposium co-organised by the School of Communication at HKBU and the HK-America Center. Journalists and scholars assessed Trump’s first 100 days in office and the impact his presidency may have on the media.
Masato Kajimoto and Anne Kruger hosted a workshop at N3Con on how to get the numbers right—“A Refresher: Very Basic Statistics for Journalists”—where they discussed how to avoid pitfalls when interpreting surveys, health research and social science studies.
The Foreign Correspondents’ Club, Hong Kong (FCC), and the JMSC co-organized two panel discussions to mark the 20th anniversary of the Hong Kong handover. JMSC’s Keith Richburg and Ching Cheong joined other correspondents who covered the event in 1997 on panels at the FCC and N3Con. Watch the FCC panel here.
Honorary Research Fellow Ching Cheong was invited to a debate with Ming Pao Assistant Editor-in-Chief Gary Cheung at the FCC on the 1967 riots. The two panellists discussed how the riots changed Hong Kong’s political landscape and their present-day consequences. Watch the debate here.
Cultural Journalism Campus, the non-profit founded by Honorary Lecturer Vivienne Chow to promote arts and culture among young people and children through the practice of cultural journalism and art criticism, was featured on the TVB J2 channel.
Articles by Faculty & Staff
May-June – The Correspondent: China’s meddling in Hong Kong’s affairs is here to stay – get used to it, by Keith Richburg
May-June – The Correspondent: Professionalism in journalism will topple fake news, FCC Journalism Conference hears, by George Russell

31 May – Variety: Asia gets up to speed with VR, by Vivienne Chow
17 May – Variety: Handover hangover: Hong Kong's film industry faces an uncertain future, by Vivienne Chow

11 May – Quartz: The fight scenes behind the “authorized” biopic of Bruce Lee, by Vivienne Chow

8 May – The New York Times, Asian Stocks Greet Macron With a Rise, by Gerry Doyle
6 May – South China Morning Post: Opinion: If only Nixon could go to China, can only Trump go to North Korea?, by Keith Richburg
Student News
MJ students present documentary projects about life in Hong Kong and across the border
Nancy Tong and Ruby Yang’s 24 students in the spring Master of Journalism Documentary Video Production course showed off their final projects on 19 May at a public screening on campus. The six films that were shown touched on a colourful and diverse range of topics in both Hong Kong and the Mainland. Visit the JMSC website later this month for links to full-length versions of the films.
Misinformation and hate speech in Myanmar
Samantha Stanley, who is receiving her Master in Journalism this summer and continuing at JMSC for her doctoral study in news literacy, writes about what happened when Myanmar went from limited news to smartphones almost overnight in a piece for First Draft News.
Alumni News
24 May –, 21 People Arrested Over ‘Fake Test Data’ as Safety Scandal Hits Massive Chinese Bridge Project, by Kevin Lui (MJ, 2015)
19 May – CNN International, Mom donates womb to daughter in India’s first uterus transplant, by Medhavi Arora (BJ, 2016)
15 May – Quartz: Your guide to understanding OBOR, China’s new Silk Road plan, by Zheping Huang (MJ, 2015)
14 May – Hong Kong Free Press: Local charity brings kindness to the streets of Hong Kong, by Hillary Leung (BJ, 2017)
14 May – Nepali Times, It’s party time on the internet, by Sonia Awale (MJ, 2016)
8 May – Asia Times Online, Fast friends: China’s media says Macron an ally for the ages, by Lin Wanxia (MJ, 2016)
8 May – Quartz: China publishes more science research with fabricated peer-review than everyone else put together, by Echo Huang (MJ, 2016)
Coming up this month
JMSC’s China Media Project (CMP) will be hosting a forum on Chinese creative nonfiction writing in Macau from 1-3 June. The event will be an opportunity for 14 Chinese writers of creative nonfiction to discuss all aspects of this emerging trend in China, including reporting and story writing. 
On 6 June, CMP co-director David Bandurski heads to Melbourne along with two journalism fellows for a weeklong exchange at the University of Melbourne on Chinese journalism. David will be presenting a seminar on “Propaganda and Truth: Reading Media in Reform China”.
Associate Professor of Practice Thomas Abraham will be travelling to London for a conference on 8 June organized by the WHO and the Wellcome Trust on integrating social science interventions in global health emergencies. Abraham, who is in the final stages of completing a book on the world’s efforts to eradicate polio, will also travel later in the month to Atlanta to attend an event on polio eradication at the Rotary International Convention and to visit the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Vivienne Chow will be moderating a talk with Swiss collector Uli Sigg, which will be followed by a screening of the film The Chinese Lives of Uli Sigg, in Warsaw, Poland, on 9 June. The event is part of the first GAAB Collectors Summit, where Chow will also be speaking the following day.
The JMSC will co-host a two-day APAC News Literacy Working Group meeting on 13-14 June along with Facebook and The Society of Publishers in Asia (SOPA). Keith Richburg and other members of the JMSC faculty will be joining participants from Facebook and SOPA in panel discussions and breakout sessions on wide-ranging topics pertaining to news literacy.
Masato Kajimoto will be presenting at the eLearning Forum Asia 2017 at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on 15 June about “Demystifying news literacy through a massive open online course.”
Anne Kruger will be speaking on a panel to discuss “Empowering civil society for fighting misinformation” at the Keep it Real: Truth and Trust in the Media conference, co-organized by WAN-IFRA and The Straits Times, on 19-20 June in Singapore.