December 2020

Message from Keith

The year 2020 has been full of unsettling news.

The Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted life’s rhythms and routines. Live events have been cancelled, the economy is reeling, bars and restaurants hit with multiple restrictions are struggling to stay afloat and regular milestones—weddings, anniversaries, birthday celebrations, graduation ceremonies—have been moved online, reduced to a handful of close contacts or scrapped completely.

On top of the invisible virus, the new National Security Law has significantly altered Hong Kong’s political life. This year’s planned Legislative Council elections were postponed, opposition lawmakers, activists and students have been rounded up by police and some have fled abroad or been apprehended trying. Many of the signs, songs and slogans that animated last year’s protest marches have now become proscribed criminal offences.

But rather than focus on all the bad, I thought it might be better to use this last newsletter of 2020 to shine a brief light on some of the positive notes from the year. And there have indeed been some to reflect upon.

The first is that as far as the pandemic is concerned, help—in the form of a vaccine — is on the way. In record time, barely a year since the mysterious new virus was first reported by doctors in Wuhan, China, several vaccines have received emergency authorisation for use, including two from the United States, from Pfizer and Moderna, said to be about 95% effective. China is said ready to have 600 million doses of a vaccine ready this year. The United Kingdom this week is the first country to actually start administering the jabs, thanks to a swifter approval process.

The vaccines require a lot of care and storage, and shipping enough around the world, especially to poorer countries, will be a Herculean logistical task. And countries are still debating who should get the first jabs. Vulnerable elderly residents in nursing homes? Frontline medical staff most at risk? Essential workers who keep the food processing plants running and the grocery shelves stacked? The answers will determine how quickly the virus abates and normal life can resume.

But the logistical concerns should not detract from what is a miraculous scientific feat—the development of a vaccine against a deadly pandemic in record time. By this time next year, life is likely to be returning to something we recognise as normal, travel should be resuming and we will all be telling stories about the nightmare year that was. If so, that will be because of this incredible worldwide effort by scientists and epidemiologists who deserve our heartfelt thanks.

Also, while we always prefer face-to-face classes and having our students with us here in Eliot Hall, the past several months have been instructive for showing ways we can integrate some online features into our courses going forward.

And while no one has enjoyed the periodic lockdowns and restrictions, or the disrupted travel and vacation plans, many have told me how they have come to relish the simple pleasures of downtime—catching up on good books, binge-watching those missed miniseries, spending time in nature on hikes, and enjoying more time at home with family and close friends.

Looking back, 2020 is definitely going to be a year we may all want to forget. But we should also take a moment to reflect on the year’s many shards of light.

This month we are saddened to have lost a much-loved member of our HKU Journalism family. We said farewell to Hargow, the delightful Chug—the half-Chihuahua half-Pug mix—who kept regular office hours on the couch of his human, Sharron Fast.

Hargow succumbed to advancing age and various health afflictions before leaving us forever on December 3rd. Familiar to staff and students, and fond of all, Hargow attended most orientation sessions and information days, and was even known to frequent staff Happy Hour sessions on High Street in Sai Ying Pun, often propped on a stool.

But what we most recall is the patter of his tiny feet on spindly legs as he propelled down the hallway on the second floor of Eliot Hall in search of snacks and treats, which were preferably soft since he was lately of just a single tooth. Hargow’s fame extended to the stage, where he shared the role of Bruiser Woods in the Hong Kong production of "Legally Blonde, the Musical". One review at the time praised his “undeniable stage presence”. He was 11.

Keith B. Richburg
Journalism and Media Studies Centre
America in 2020 has often seemed like a mess--with the election, pandemic, racial injustice fracturing the country. Keith Richburg spoke to four correspondents based in the U.S.--Zhaoyin Feng (BBC World Service), Chris McGreal (The Guardian), Marc Pitzke (DER SPIEGEL) and Yan Zhang (Initium Media)--during a live Zoom event on 3 December where they shared insights about a wide range of topics, from Trump and US-China relations to the coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement. Watch the discussion on our YouTube channel.

With social distancing and health measures in place, we held an in-person info session for our Master of Journalism programme on 1 December at Eliot Hall. Programme director Matt Walsh, director Keith Richburg and a skeleton staff hosted prospective candidates and gave them a brief demo in our TV studio. We'll also be holding two more info sessions over Zoom on December 17th and January 15th. More info here.

Alumni & Student News
Congratulations to Yiling Zhang! Yiling, who just graduated from the Master of Journalism programme, won Best Documentary at the 36th International Short Film Festival Berlin 2020 for her short film "1 a.m. in Hong Kong". She made the film for Uli Gaulke and Ruby Yang's Documentary Film Production course in the spring with teammates Gaby Lin Wanshan and Jessica Zhou Fangjia.
Yilin was inspired by Hong Kong's special magic during the wee hours, and along with Gaby and Jessica, chronicled scenes of the city between 1am and 4am. In awarding first prize to Yiling, the Jury said, "With great precision, this moving snapshot captures the feeling of what it is to be alive in the here and now all around the world." George Russell spoke to Yiling to find out how it all came together. Read about it here
Twelve undergrads in Patrick Yu’s strategic communication course participated in the second edition of Sustainable Communications Programme organized by the Asia-Pacific Association of Communications Directors. The programme connects students with experienced mentors where they form virtual teams to support social enterprises on their coms challenges. Despite the difficulties of COVID-19, the two teams of HKU students, together with one from HK Baptist University, presented their
proposals and execution to date to three NGOs--Pathways, Enrich HK and Focus--on 27 November. The NGOs’ feedback was very positive and encouraging. We look forward to the next round of the programme and see other bright ideas from HKU Journalism students to create sustainable communications programmes for NGOs in Hong Kong.
Faculty & Staff News

Mary Hsiao, our Research and Teaching Assistant, has been selected for the Social Sciences Outstanding E-learning Award for her work helping Keith Richburg design the syllabus for his spring 2020 Common Core course, "The Journalist: Comics, Movies, Fiction and Fact". The Selection Committee was impressed by her "fantastic use of technologies, team online games, role play, polling and mentorship, to create an innovative leaning environment to assist students' learning" and applaud her "excellent contribution to teaching and learning". Congratulations Mary!

Masato Kajimoto and our former director Professor Ying Chan spoke at the "Misinformation In Medicine Summit" held from 20-21 November. The event was convened by DataLEADS and hosted by the Google News Initiative as a part of the APAC Trusted Media Summit 2020. The video of their session "The role of media literacy in tackling health misinformation" can be viewed here.

HKU Journalism in the news
(12 November) Nikkei Asian Review: Renewed China-Vatican deal on bishops sets stage for official ties, William Langley (MJ 2021)
(14 November) Hong Kong Free Press: Fact-checkers under fire as some Hong Kong Trump supporters cry foul over US election (Masato Kajimoto)
(14 November) South China Morning Post: Pope looked anti-Trump by refusing to meet Mike Pompeo, says retired Hong Kong bishop, William Langley (MJ 2021)
(16 November) The Strategist: America survives the Trump years, by Keith B. Richburg
(26 November) Ariana: Media Literacy 101: Tools for combating fake news and disinformation, by Joanne Ma
(26 November) BOOM: Republic TV, FB, WhatsApp, YouTube: What Do They Have in Common? (Masato Kajimoto)
(27 November) The Initium: 香港,亞洲外媒之都的殞落? (In Chinese, Keith B. Richburg)
Coming up

Masato will be speaking at a three-day virtual WHO event "C4H Communication For Health" from 8-10 December where he will join a panel of speakers for a discussion about "In the post-truth era, how do we combat the onslaught of misinformation to deliver health advice that people trust?".

Diana Jou will be moderating a briefing organized by the HKU Department of Sociology for journalists on 14 December to promote responsible reporting on migrant domestic work issues. Representatives from three migrant workers and women's rights organizations will discuss the structural factors shaping labour migration and bust harmful myths that distort the realities migrant domestic workers face in Hong Kong. Details here.

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