Monthly newsletter: June 2019

Message from Keith

Hong Kong on June 4 just saw one of the largest crowds ever gather to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the massacre of pro-democracy students and protestors in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. 

Attendance had started to drop off in recent years for the annual candlelight vigil. The massive turnout this time was no doubt helped by mounting public opposition to the Hong Kong government’s proposed new extradition bill, which would allow the transfer of criminal suspects to mainland China, where the legal system is subservient to the ruling Communist Party.

The press—local and foreign—did a commendable job covering the weeks leading up to this year’s anniversary of the massacre. There were retrospectives, opinion pieces by Tiananmen survivors, previously unseen photographs and interviews with eyewitnesses providing new details on what took place the night of June 3 and 4 in Beijing.

And of course, as usual, all of the reporting and even mere mentions of June 4 were heavily censored inside of China.

Some have asked why the press still continues to mark the events of 30 years ago with such intense coverage. How, they ask, is a tragic episode of three decades ago relevant to modern China today, with its booming economy and growing global clout.

My answer is simple: we continue to cover what happened on June 4, 1989, precisely because China’s government wants us to forget. As long as the current rulers—the same party in charge of the massacre—tries to cover up what happened, suppress the memory and refuses to make a true public reckoning, journalists have an obligation to keep that memory alive.

And precisely because the Chinese government has been so effective at trying to whitewash the memory of how its army slaughtered innocent people in Tiananmen Square, journalists—many, like me, who were around 30 years ago and remember—must make sure the official erasure never succeeds.

To me, that is simply what journalists do. I always recall the old adage: news is what someone else does not want you to print; everything else is just propaganda.

A NOTE: As we enter the scorching summer months, and with classes now over for the 2018-19 school year, this newsletter will take a short hiatus until September, when our new term begins. Then we will be welcoming back our returning undergraduates, and welcoming in a new cohort of freshmen and Master of Journalism students.

But we also want to take a moment to say goodbye to two long-time instructors who are moving on after a combined two decades with us. Kees Metselaar has been our photojournalism teacher for as long as most of us can remember, and Nancy Tong has been a stalwart helming the documentary video production and documentary film appreciation classes. Please join me in wishing them a fond farewell.

Keith Richburg
Director of the JMSC

Farewell JMSC 

Back in the late 1970s I had to teach chemistry in a Dutch high school, as part of my chemistry and microbiology degree studies of almost eight long years. I never imagined that decades later, I would be teaching news photography to bright young students on the other side of the world. 

It’s also surprising that, except for Americans, most journalists and photographers my age were never formally trained as such. We did degrees in all kinds of academic subjects, or sometimes we just started as apprentices, before going out and discovering the world. I taught myself photography, although undoubtedly the strong science background was a great help.
Since the arrival of the internet, it is becoming increasingly impossible to make a living as a photojournalist. Gone are the days when news organisations would pay high day-rates to a photographer in a strange place, waiting for that one original image that no one else would have. Now we all see everything from everywhere, and it is hard to be surprised anymore.
So what is still important in photography? It matters that the craft is well-honed, that the product is as good as it can be, and that the relationship between the person taking an image, and the subject of that image are cause no harm.
There is not one way to teach photography. Everyone is doing their own picture-making these days with phones and other devices. But as my students can tell you, I am of the firm view that some basics are still very important. It is not enough just to do photos (or indeed anything) on ‘automatic’. It is better for all of us to understand what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how we can change an outcome through our own understanding and actions.
After ten years of teaching at HKU, I have learned as much as I have taught. It’s a cliché, but absolutely true. I’ve learned from the enthusiasm of students and the new ways of looking at things, and from the different kinds of problems that crop up with new technologies. And I have learned from my best-ever teaching assistants—AJ Libunao, Foon Lee and Li Chen—that a good class is never done alone. It takes great colleagues.
Greetings and see you all around in Hong Kong.

Kees Metselaar
Honorary Lecturer
JMSC hosted the inaugural group of JNI/HKU Fellows on a reporting trip to Hong Kong. We partnered with the newly established Judith Nielson Institute for Journalism and Ideas to bring 12 Australian journalists to Hong Kong for a deep dive into
China and Hong Kong stories that are making headlines around the world. Their two-week visit to Hong Kong has been filled with seminars and meetings with experts, journalists and politicians, newsroom tours, the SOPA Awards Gala Dinner, AAJA-Asia's N3Con
media conference, and covering the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen crackdown and debate over the proposed extradition bill among other news stories in the region.
The annual SOPA Awards for Editorial Excellence were announced at a gala dinner on 29 May. JMSC has been the awards administrator since 2011. As in years past, a number of JMSC alumni were honoured across a wide variety of categories. Here is the full list of winners. (Photo: Keith Richburg with the JNI/HKU Fellows)
JMSC hosted AAJA-Asia's annual media conference, N3Con, at HKU from 30 May to 2 June. This year we also co-organized the Journalism and Media Job Fair on 31 May, in which 14 companies participated. Our students volunteered at the event and a number of staff and alumni took part as panellists and moderators, including Keith Richburg, Ross Settles, Zela Chin, Tom Grundy, and Jarrod Watt.
Student & Alumni News

Master of Journalism candidate David Missal was the winner in the Student Video & Audio (English) category at this year's Human Rights Press Awards. His documentary, "Lawyer Lin" for Hong Kong Free Press, is about Chinese human rights lawyer Lin Qilei, who represented activist and religious practitioners on the Mainland.

A group of our Master of Journalism alumni hosted a welcome reception for incoming students in Shanghai on 3 June. Big thanks to Peggy Shen (MJ 2011) for taking the lead in organizing this get-together and to her fellow alumni Han Wei (MJ 2009), Lorrin Shao (MJ 2014), Elaine Wang (MJ 2015), and Janie Yin (MJ 2016). They shared their experiences during their time at JMSC as well as the ups and downs of their careers since graduating. We look forward to welcoming our next class of MJ's this fall.
Faculty & Staff News

Ruby Yang, project director of the Hong Kong Documentary Initiative  (HKDI), was named Artist of the Year for Film at the 2018 Hong Kong Arts Development Awards. This is the first time documentary filmmakers have been honoured by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council in the film category for both Artist of the Year and Award for Young Artist.

Carol Lai, Adjunct Associate Professor at JMSC, and Ching Cheong, JMSC writer-in-residence, both contributed essays to a new book about the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown. I am a journalist, My June 4 story, which was released in Hong Kong on 4 June 2019, is a compilation of essays by 60 journalists to commemorate the 30th anniversary of June 4th. Thirty of the contributors also contributed to the accompanying video series.

Ruby was in San Francisco in May to attend the world premiere of the documentaries The Last Stitch, directed by HKDI seed grant recipient Alfred Sung and produced by Ruby, and M for Malaysia, supported by HKDI with Ruby as creative producer, at CAAM Fest 2019. She was also a panellist on "Spotlight on Hong Kong Cinema: Women On The Rise" at the festival.
JMSC in the news

15 May – AFP Fact Check: No, this photo does not show Trump has started special flights between New York and Mumbai so Indians can vote for Modi, by Supriya Batra (MJ 2019)

22 May – Reuters: Hong Kong activists get asylum in Germany; denounce extradition law, by Jessie Pang (MJ 2019)
29 May – Nikkei Asian Review: Asia should not bet on Democrats on trade, by Keith B. Richburg
30 May – U.S. News & World Report: Across China, Who Remembers Tiananmen?, by Keith B. Richburg
June – Buses: Old Warhorses: What is the future of Hong Kong’s minibuses?, by Dennis Huang (MJ 2020)
Coming up
Keith Richburg will be moderating a conversation with journalists who witnessed the events at Tiananmen at the opening reception on 6 June for the Images of Tiananmen and Beyond: Twelve Photojournalists Tell The Story exhibition at the Foreign Correspondents' Club.
From 10-11 June, he will be at the Guangzhou American Center taking part in two events organized by the U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou--"The History of Volunteerism in America" and "Media Communication".
On 23 July, Keith will give a talk on "Authoritarianism, Democracy and the Media in China & Southeast Asia" to students in the 3 Campus East Asia programme, a study abroad programme held on the campuses of HKU, Keio University in Japan, and Yonsei University in South Korea.
Dr. King-wa Fu, Associate Professor, will be presenting a paper at a two-day workshop on "Digital Governance in China: Towards a Chinese Model of Digital Governance?" at the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin from 28-29 June.
From 31 July - 2 August, King-wa will take part in the Citizen Lab Summer Institute on Monitoring Internet Openness and Rights, which will be held at the University of Toronto.
Dr. Masato Kajimoto, who leads our news literacy initiative, will be speaking at the Asia Media Summit in Siem Reap, Cambodia (10-14 June), and the International Conference on Fake News in Bangkok, Thailand (17 June). Eric Wishart, Honorary Lecturer, will be on the same panel with Masato in Bangkok, "International Best Practice on how to handle Fake News". Masato will also be attending the Facebook APAC News Literacy Conference in Taipei (June 19-20) and the Google Trusted Media Summit in Singapore (July 12-14).