Monthly newsletter: September 2018

Message from Keith

Welcome back.

As you know, this newsletter took a break for the summer months, but now we are back, welcoming a new cohort of 32 undergraduate Bachelor of Journalism students and 68 Master of Journalism students. It’s heartening to see so many young people eager to enter a profession routinely described as “dying” and denounced by braggadocious blowhards on Twitter as “Fake News.”

The only thing “fake,” it seems, are the premature predictions of journalism’s demise.

That’s not to say there are not challenges. Just at the start of our new semester came the depressing news that two Reuters journalists in Myanmar, Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, were sentenced to seven years in prison, ostensibly for violating the country’s colonial-era Official Secrets Act. Their real crime was reporting on the Myanmar military’s campaign of genocide against the country’s Rohingya ethnic minority.

Here in Hong Kong, the Foreign Correspondents’ Club (full disclosure: I am a former FCC president) came under harsh criticism from the usual pro-China crowd for hosting a speaker’s event featuring Andy Chan, a leader of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party. Never mind that Hong Kongers still enjoy free speech, that Chan’s tiny party has not currently been banned, and that there is now no national security law in Hong Kong making it illegal to discuss the question of independence. To the pro-Beijing chorus, the FCC erred by not self-censoring its speakers, and should be kicked out of its premises as punishment.

Then add to that the increasing drumbeat of criticism from the U.S. president, whose rhetoric seemed to take a deadly turn when a California man was arrested for threatening to shoot and kill reporters from the Boston Globe, who he called “enemy of the people,” echoing a favourite Trump line.

The various attacks on the press would be disheartening, were it not for all the positive signs out there—and, most specifically, the solid number of young people lining up to join the ranks of us Meddling Foreign Journalists. They come with all the qualities we want in reporters—curiosity, empathy, a commitment to truth and an unquenchable appetite for good storytelling, on all platforms.

What we need to do as journalists is buckle down, dig deep, ferret out the facts and continue to speak truth to power. We cannot allow ourselves to get distracted by all the noise and the name-calling, even while we recognise the challenges, and the dangers, that exist.

With that, let’s welcome the incoming class of 2018. There’s never been a more exciting time to be a journalist—nor a more important one.

Keith Richburg
Director of the JMSC


JMSC welcomed 100 new students to our Bachelor and Master of Journalism programmes with orientations on 29 August and 1 September, respectively, with presentations by the programme directors Jeffrey Timmermans and Kevin Sites.

Both incoming classes are made up of a diverse group of students hailing from around the world. Our undergraduates come from top-flight schools in Hong Kong and overseas, while our graduate candidates have been hand-picked for their journalistic aptitude. George Russell spoke to students and interviewed the programme directors in this piece about our new students.

We kicked off our on-campus events this semester with a visit from Gary Liu, CEO of the South China Morning Post, on 12 September. The informal session moderated by our adjunct professor Ross Settles centred on SCMP’s mission, strategy and culture and leadership that Mr. Liu and his team have brought to bear to give the SCMP a reboot for the 21st century.

Spearheaded by Associate Professor King-wa Fu and the Wechatscope team, JMSC hosted the "Symposium on Digital Research into Media and Politics: International & Hong Kong Studies" on 24 August with our co-organiser, Society of Hong Kong Studies. The event was well attended with over 90 local and international scholars, experts and students, representing academic institutions from Hong Kong, Austria, France, Germany, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Find out more here.

JMSC and the Office of Legislative Councillor Charles Mok co-organized a seminar titled, "Behind social media – privacy and free speech", on 4 September at the University of Hong Kong. The Hon Charles Mok and Dr. King-wa Fu were joined by representatives from the media, government regulator and industry to discuss key issues and the potential to improve internet governance in Hong Kong.

Student & Alumni News

This year's winner of the Mick Deane Scholarship for Video Journalism is Master of Journalism graduate Sida Wang (MJ 2018). The scholarship, which honours the veteran British cameraman killed on duty in 2013, is awarded to a JMSC student who shows exceptional talent, skills and commitment to excellence in video journalism. Read more about Sida's achievements in this profile by George Russell.

Students in Associate Professor of Practice Kevin Sites's Backpack Journalism course last semester produced a mini-documentary that "examines whether students, teachers and the University of Hong Kong’s halls of residence can help reunite a divided campus". The semester-long project was published by Hong Kong Free Press on 10 June. Watch it here.
Nine of our Bachelor of Journalism students embarked on a reporting trip, supported by the Gallant Ho Experiential Learning Fund, to explore sustainable development issues in Malaysia in June. During the trip they produced a story for Asia Sentinel on Sunway City and its transformation, which included an interview with the founder and chairman of Sunway Group, Tan Sri Dr. Jeffrey Cheah. See more from their three weeks in Malaysia on Instagram.
One of our new internship partners, RMIT ABC FactCheck, a partnership between RMIT University and the ABC, took on fourth-year Bachelor of Journalism student Elizabeth Utley for a summer internship. The joint initiative is dedicated to providing verified and accurate information. During her internship, Elizabeth helped find claims made by politicians and other high-profile Australians. Through research and interviews with experts, these claims were debunked and verified.
Bachelor of Journalism student Angel Yeung who is also in her final year spent the summer at another of our new internship partners in the region, Taiwan-based news website The News Lens. Working with a fellow intern, they performed research, fact-checking, data analysis and multiple interviews to produce a feature story about Taiwanese "citizen entertainment" that is expected to be published in October.
Faculty & Staff News

JMSC Lecturer Sharron Fast has been awarded a Knowledge Exchange Grant for her project "SHIFTING SANDS: Navigating the changing landscape for free expression in Asia". The project seeks to provide an interactive online public resource on the state of free expression in Asia by collecting, organizing and disseminating information on developments in the continent legally and otherwise which impact the ability of the public to speak, publish and otherwise communicate freely.  

Ross Settles, who was a Honorary Lecturer for three years at the JMSC, joins us as Adjunct Professor focused on digital media and entrepreneurship. Ross consults media on the challenges and opportunities presented by the unique Asian media environment. Settles has worked with media to develop sustainable media business models in Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Myanmar, as well as in Europe and North America.

Also joining us this semester as Honorary Lecturer is Ting Shi, a freelance journalist and media consultant. Previously, she was a senior correspondent with Bloomberg News, mainly covering China’s elite politics, political economy, and foreign relations. She was also China Editor at South China Morning Post for four years. Shi has an MA in Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.
Keith Richburg travelled to Ukraine in July to attend a series of events where he met with media professionals in the region and spoke to students about his experience as a foreign correspondent. He attended the Donbas Media Forum held in Kharviv from 6-7 July as a panellist and also gave a workshop on "The role of media in reconciliation processes and conflict resolution".
In Kyiv, he gave a workshop to journalists at the Ukraine Crisis Media Center on 9 July on "The role of the media in covering conflicts" and was featured in a public talk on 10 July at the America House Kyiv on the same topic. (Top photo: Ukraine Crisis Media Center; bottom photo: America House Kyiv)
Keith was in Taipei on 9 September at the invitation of the Lung Yingtai Cultural Foundation to speak about China's growing influence in Africa. The talk was moderated by Kuo Chen Lung, Deputy Editor-in-Chief of United Daily News.
Dr. Masato Kajimoto attended the annual Global Fact-checking Summit that was held in Rome from 20-22 June. Hosted by the International Fact-Checking Network, fact-checkers, academics, technologists and other experts convened to exchange best practices and learn more about the fight against misinformation.

Masato also took part in a podcast by Storyful on 24 July titled, "Cinnamon, Condoms and Copycat Dares", about online copycat trends and what approach mainstream media outlets should take in their reporting of them.
Dr. King-wa Fu and Dr. Yun Tai attended the 4th Annual International Conference on Computational Social Science on 15 July, where Yun presented their paper, “Tracking Censorship of WeChat Public Accounts in China: A Computational Social Science’s Approach”. The event was held at the Kellogg School of Management of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.
Benjamin Zhou of the Transparency Project attended the Asia Pacific Regional Internet Governance Forum (APrIGF) in Vanuatu from 13-16 August, and spoke at two panels about online surveillance and censorship, and youth mobility.
Selected Work by Faculty & Staff

4 June – South China Morning Post: How two green schools in Hong Kong are teaching sustainability to children and leading the way in local education community, by Marianne Bray

11 June – South China Morning Post: Sleepless in Singapore: Dear Trump, some dos and don'ts for your big date with Kim, by Keith B. Richburg

17 June – South China Morning Post: Admit it: Trump's Singapore date with Kim made us all safer, by Keith B. Richburg

21 July  – South China Morning Post: Mandela's legacy lives strong in Asia, but can we say the same for its leaders?, by Keith B. Richburg

Coming up

Keith Richburg will join a panel of speakers from the Faculty of Arts following a screening of the 1977 film Killer of Sheep to comment on the internationally celebrated film in the context of motion picture history, the Civil Rights Movement, African American filmmaking, and the depiction of gender, race, and working class life in American independent cinema. The event will be held on 13 September at Rayson Huang Theatre. Register here.

Ruby Yang, along with Jampa Dhundup and Dechen Yeshi who are featured in her documentary Ritoma, will attend two screenings on 16 and 18 September during the MOViE MOViE Festival: Life is Art 2018. Ruby's 2014 film My Voice, My Life will also be screened during the festival at the Rooftop Cinema of the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre in Shek Kip Mei on 15 September.

The HKU Libraries is hosting a talk at the Main Library on 18 September with JMSC Honorary Research Fellow and writer-in-residence Ching Cheong to discuss his latest book about the 1967 Leftist Riots in Hong Kong. 香港67暴动始末 ---- 解读吴荻舟 (The Origin and End of the 1967 Riot in Hong Kong) highlights the precarious situation of Hong Kong in the midst of the Cultural Revolution in the 1960's. Kiang Kwan Sang, author of the celebrated treatise, The Chinese Communist Party in Hong Kong, will moderate. Register here.

Masato will be speaking at the CSR Asia Summit 2018 that will be held in Hong Kong from 18-19 September. He will be on a panel to discuss "Multi-stakeholder approaches to take on false news in a digital world”.
The HKU Sustainability Office and JMSC are co-hosting the National Geographic Society on 4 October on campus to give students the opportunity to learn more about the Explorer Program. Professor Yvonne Sadovy of the HKU School of Biological Sciences will be among several Hong Kong-based Explorers who will be sharing their experiences and research. Please visit our website in the coming weeks for details.

The Hong Kong Documentary Initiative, in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Hong Kong, is presenting a Master Class with award-winning German documentarian Uli Gaulke. Director Uli Gaulke will give a workshop on Story Development for a Short Creative Documentary and attend three screenings with Q&A from 4 October to 10 November 2018 at the University of Hong Kong. Details here.

On 6 October, we will be hosting a one-day conference, "The Ethical Image: Challenges in Visualising a Changing World" at the University of Hong Kong. Co-organized with the World Press Photo Foundation's Explore programme and human rights consultancy Rights Exposure, the event will bring together leading experts from Asia and beyond working in academia, the media and the NGO community to discuss the ethical challenges faced by those who create, publish and use images in the course of their daily work, with the Rohingya crisis being the main case study. The conference is supported by the WMA (WYNG Foundation Media Award) and Google News Initiative. Details and registration here.
The next in our series of JMSC writers-in-residence book talks co-organized with the HKU Libraries will be with Honorary Associate Professor Thomas Abraham, whose latest work looks into how global and local forces thwarted the eradication of polio. He will be joined by Professor Keiji Fukuda, Director of the HKU School of Public Health and former WHO official, on a panel moderated by Keith Richburg on 11 October at the HKU Main Library. Details and registration will be available soon on our website.