Monthly newsletter: May 2018

Message from Keith

By Keith B. Richburg

Every day now, it seems, we are being constantly hit with an unending firehose of information.

Breaking news comes at us through mobile alerts on our phones and the newsfeeds on social media. Websites, blogs, daily digests, tweets, listservs and forums all deluge us with disconnected data points. Never in human history has so much information been so readily available almost instantaneously, literally at the click of a button or the swipe of a screen.

But with all this new access to information, are we really better informed?

I would argue the opposite—that we are actually less informed than in the past, in several ways and for a number of reasons.

First, and at the risk of being labelled a Luddite, I do believe that print newspapers served a useful filter purpose. Papers provided all the news that was fit to print and no more. The articles that appeared each day were vetted by professional reporters and editors, and organised neatly according to their importance. What was most important appeared on the front page at the top, lesser important stories at the bottom of A1, and so on.

How can anyone now tell the relative importance of any single article on a news website when the positions on the page constantly rotates, depending on the number of user clicks and how long the piece has been displayed?

Also, news shared through WhatsApp or WeChat, or posted on Twitter or Facebook, are most often those selected by your friends or by algorithms attuned to your past viewing habits. This inevitably leads to self-selection, meaning people are only reading what they are already interested in, or what their friends think you need to know.

Reading a print newspaper or a magazine is often a voyage of discovery; you find yourself drawn to a catchy headline or captivating photo, and reading a fascinating article about a topic you never knew you were interested in, and may never have stumbled across if you only consumed your news digitally.

And we all know that this new tidal wave of information carries with it the detritus of deception—the real “fake news,” lies and clickbait sloshing around the Internet masquerading as legitimate. Sometimes it is satire, often it is pure propaganda and many times its purpose is to deliberate mislead. The adage is even more true in our digital age, that a lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still lacing up its boots.

Finally, there is the problem that with all this information there seems a dearth of depth, a lack of reflection, perspective and analysis. An article appearing in a daily newspaper or weekly magazine has typically been thoroughly thought through, written, rewritten and edited. Instant news online is typically rushed, and too often inaccurate or incomplete.

We cannot turn back the clock on this new information overload. What we can do is be more literate, and more discerning, consumers. It might also help to once in a while turn off the alerts, and get news the old-fashioned way, once a day, after a story has been properly researched and vetted.

And try picking up a print newspaper or magazine sometime, and enjoy it leisurely over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Who knows—you might even find something that surprises you, and leaves you more informed and more satisfied than before.

Keith Richburg
Director of the JMSC

The South China Morning Post and JMSC hosted a weekend workshop (14-15 April) that was part of the first international infographics conference in Hong Kong organized by the Society for News Design. Workshop participants, which included JMSC students, visited local places of interest to explore and
gather. With the addition of data and historical facts about each location and supervision by the SCMP infographics team, teams brainstormed story ideas and planned how they would visualise their assigned location for presentations to the whole group. (Top photo: Marcelo Duhalde)
Matt Walsh's TV News Anchoring class was treated to a visit from CNN's Kristie Lu Stout, host of News Stream, and associate producer Esther Pang on 16 April. CNN had donated some old equipment to JMSC, including the News Stream touchscreen that Esther set up
specially for the visit so that she and Kristie could give students a demo on how they use technology and multimedia on the programme.
Student & Alumni News
2017 Bachelor of Journalism graduates Laura Chung and Vangary Li, both whose second major was Criminology, recently joined the ranks of police inspectors in Hong Kong. Director of the Bachelor of Journalism programme Jeff Timmermans attended their passing out parade at the Hong Kong Police College on 14 April.
Martin Choi, who is in his final year of the Bachelor of Journalism programme, was among this year's group of HKU students recognised for their achievements in external endeavours. He was presented with an award by Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Tam at the prize ceremony on 21 April at Wang Gungwu Lecture Hall for winning the University English-Language Broadcast Prize at the 2017 Human Rights Press Awards.
Three JMSC Master of Journalism alumni were winners at the 2017 Hong Kong News Awards, which is given out by The Newspaper Society of Hong Kong. Honey Tsang Hang-yee (MJ 2017), a feature writer and reporter for China Daily, was the winner for "Best Science News Reporting" and first runner-up for "Best News Writing (English)". Jun Mai (MJ 2010), Senior China Reporter at the South China Morning Post, was part of the team that won a merit prize for "Best News Reporting" for their coverage of the 19th Chinese Communist Party congress. Finally, Joy Dong Qiuyi (MJ 2014), China News Reporter at Sing Tao Daily, was a merit prize winner in the "Best Business News Reporting" category for her work in a series about China's "sharing economy". (Photo: Honey Tsang)
For the second year in a row, JMSC graduates are among the recipients of documentary filmmaking seed grants awarded by the Hong Kong Documentary Initiative and CNEX Foundation. 2017 Master of Journalism graduates Jayson Albano and Sonali Devnani will receive a HK$30,000 production grant for their film Addicted Innocence, a documentary about children in New Delhi struggling with substance abuse.
The documentary China's Forgotten Daughters, co-directed by Meng Han and 2011 Master of Journalism graduate and 2016-2017 seed grant recipient Vincent Du, will premiere at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival on 10 May as part of the International Documentary Feature Competition.
2010 Master of Journalism graduate Andrea Fenn was recently included in Campaign Asia-Pacific's annual "Digital A-List", which honours people and brands leading digital innovations in the China market. Andrea was listed under the "Disruptors" category for his work with Fireworks, China's first post-digital agency, which he founded in 2013.
Faculty & Staff News
Ruby Yang, project director of the Hong Kong Documentary Initiative, premiered her latest documentary, Ritoma, on 8 April in Hong Kong. Former nomads who are players on the basketball team featured in the film and their coach, MIT alumnus Bill Johnson, along with other members of the Ritoma workshop
travelled from their village on the Tibet Plateau to attend the premiere. Other guests included former Hong Kong financial secretary John Tsang, U.S. Consul General for Hong Kong and Macau Kurt Tong, director of the Hung Hing Ying and Leung Hau Ling Charitable Foundation Belinda Hung, and from The University of
Hong Kong Foundation, Professor Rosie T T Young, Dr. Patrick Poon Sun-Cheong, and Bernadette Tsui. HKU Executive Vice-President Dr. Steve Cannon, Dean of Social Sciences Professor William Hayward, JMSC founding director Professor Ying Chan, and JMSC director Keith Richburg also attended.

The China Media Project held its first 2018 Fellows Forum in Berlin on 12-13 April attended by veteran journalists and China experts from Hong Kong and mainland China. The event, held at the Robert Bosch Academy, included a public talk on

12 April with panellists Qian Gang, David Bandurski and Jean-Philippe Beja (SciencesPo, Paris), on the topic of "40 Years of Reform and Xi Jinping's New Era". In the evening, Bosch and CMP hosted a dinner in which Chinese guests and 10 representatives from the German government, think tanks and
foundations held informal discussions on the topic of the future of the Europe-China relationship. On 13 April, Qian Gang and David took Chinese fellows on tours of the Stasi Archives and other Berlin historical landmarks. (Top two photos: Robert Bosch Academy/Back)
Selected Work by Students

13 April – Quartz: How I learned to live with a name that’s a constant source of humiliation, Natalie Lung (BJ 2018)

17 April – Reuters: Chinese exporters concerned about U.S.-China trade spat- survey, with reporting by Wyman Ma (MJ 2018)

18 April – Asia Sentinel: Chinese students increasingly find US a hostile place to study, by Marisa Lee (MJ 2018)

28 April – The Straits Times: In Myanmar, when home is one of world's biggest opium-producing areas, by Eduard Fernández (MJ 2018)

Selected Work by Faculty & Staff

3 April  – South China Morning Post: Why a safe environment is a human right: Hong Kong groups’ submission to UN on sustainable development, by Marianne Bray

7 April – South China Morning Post: Does Trump even have an endgame in trade war with China?, by Keith B. Richburg

11 April – ChinaFile: China’s Communist Party Takes (Even More) Control of the Media, with contribution by Regina Chung and King-wa Fu

25 April – South China Morning Post: Hong Kong must remain a beacon of freedom of expression as China, and the region, cracks down on critics, by Cliff Buddle

Coming up

Keith Richburg will join Kurt Tong, U.S. Consul General for Hong Kong and Macau, on a panel at the Foreign Correspondents' Club on 3 May to mark World Press Freedom Day. They will discuss the threats to press freedom and the impact on free societies around the globe, which will be followed by a screening of The Post.

Photographs by 10 JMSC students and graduates have been selected for a joint student exhibition at the Foreign Correspondents' Club from submissions made by our photojournalism instructor Kees Metselaar. The exhibition, titled “Young Lenses”, will be on show at the Main Bar from 2-11 May. Details here.

Benjamin Zhou of the Transparency Project will be speaking on two panels at RightsCon Toronto (16-18 May) -- "Transparency Reporting: The New Frontier" and "Tactics for advancing digital rights in developing economies and challenging political contexts: an RDR perspective". The event is an annual conference organised by Access Now that convenes the global digital rights community to explore issues relevant to keeping the internet free, open and secure around the world.

The N3Con: New Now Next Media Conference is just a few weeks away. Organized by the Asia chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association and hosted by JMSC, the event will be held at HKU from 25-27 May. A number of our staff and alumni will be moderating or speaking at various panel discussions, including Erin Hale, Diana Jou, Masato Kajimoto, Keith Richburg, and Isabel Wong. Details here.