Tsinghua celebrates 10 years of media

Updated: 2012-05-15 10:23

By Li Yao (chinadaily.com.cn)

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BEIJING - Renowned journalism schools from China and abroad highlighted the importance of specialized in-depth reporting and professionalism as the way forward in facing the challenge of social media.

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication on May 12, more than 200 people, including professors, experts and chief editors of leading media organizations, brainstormed each other on how to innovate and train qualified media professionals.

Shi Anbin, deputy dean of the Tsinghua journalism school, said while some major Chinese news organizations are expanding their outreach abroad, Western countries have cut back the number of international correspondence courses.

"Digital journalists should learn from Andy Carvin's one-man newsroom at the National Public Radio in the United States," Shi said. Carvin covered the Middle East during the Arab Spring upheavals in 2011 by relying on numerous local activists, bloggers and reporters through social networks such as Twitter.

In China, journalism training is largely done on campus but students should work more closely with media organizations, Shi added.

Although in recent years students are getting internships in China and abroad, some schools have used a more effective approach, Shi said. He cited the "teaching-hospital" model adopted by institutes including the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University, where the school has its own TV studio for students to turn what they learn into news products.

Joyce Barnathan, president of the International Center for Journalists, congratulated the Tsinghua journalism school's groundbreaking initiative in launching a global business journalism program in 2007 and setting the standard for business journalism education in China and beyond, among the school's other achievements over the past 10 years.

The program is run in partnership with the International Center for Journalists. Taught in English, students and faculty members are both international. Students learn cutting-edge coverage skills in business and finance as well as how to use new technology.

"There has never been a more important time to educate business journalists. They need special skills to do this job responsibly and well," she said.

Qu Yingpu, deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily, said because social media and networks enable people to not only receive but also create and spread information, media professionals can no longer control the entire information flow.

But in-depth news magazines are still in high demand to provide factual and first-hand stories in a timely and orderly manner and present the whole picture, Qu said.

Qu recalled that, a few decades ago, some media workers in China used to bring glue and scissors to cut and paste an original statement from officials and send it back to the paper.

The rise of social media requires much more from today's media professionals to produce copy on multi-media platforms. Integration of print and online versions has become vital but not all reporters are skilled at writing content and headlines that can appeal to online viewers, Qu said.

More information sources are coming from the grassroots because of social media usage, Qu said. He cited the example of a 19-year-old Internet user named "Kayne" who tweeted from his mobile phone in the first few hours after mudslides struck Zhouqu county in Qinghai province on Aug 8, 2010.

Yoichi Nishimura, former managing director of the Asahi Shimbun, a newspaper in Japan, agreed that social media played an important role in communicating with the public in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis on March 11, 2011.

But social media is often the place where people speak out their anger and exasperations. Media professionals are held in high regard because of their ability to analyze and find the reasons behind the sentiments and put the problems into perspective, he said.

Gao Jinping, head of the journalism and communication department at the Beijing Language and Culture University, said that traditional media can regain their strength by more balanced and objective reporting because what is spread on social media usually contains personal feelings and polarized opinions.

Gao came to the conclusion based on her research on how social media influenced the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

New media gave voice to those who had been silenced and competed with mainstream media for influence. The occupiers' success was boosted by support from big personalities including singers and movie stars and Nobel laureates, thanks to social media, Gao said.

Fan Dongsheng, deputy dean of the Cheung Kong School of Journalism and Communication at Shantou University in Guangdong province, said the school is disadvantaged geographically because it is located in a small city and has experienced difficulties in student enrolment and in the job market for its graduates.

"Multi-media and new platforms have helped us overcome this disadvantage," Fan said.

Fan has been sending student reporters across China and abroad to cover hot issues. Some stayed three months during the US presidential election in 2008 and some went to Cape Town, South Africa, during the 2010 World Cup.

Their most recent mission was covering the victory of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy in the by-election in Myanmar.

Major media outlets such as CNTV, the online branch of China's dominant television broadcaster China Central Television, learned from Sina Weibo of the reporting in Myanmar, contacted Fan and ran several stories from the student reporters.

Students have also converted their reports and images into products on new platforms, such as applications on iPad and iTunes, he added.

Sun Youzhong, from Beijing Foreign Studies University, said advanced technology and technical skills alone cannot instill ethics, social responsibility, enthusiasm and idealism into future reporters' minds.

Sun oversees an international multimedia journalism master's program launched in September 2010 jointly by the Beijing Foreign Studies University and Bolton University from the United Kingdom.

In addition, reporters need to be well-connected and highly skilled in popular social networks. Those with a large number of fans enjoy an advantage in capturing breaking news when it occurs, he said.

The reporter can be reached at liyao@chinadaily.com.cn