Asia online Reply

Master control at CCTV in Beijing.

Global media is at a tipping point. The western news establishment is reeling as profits collapse and revenue moves to the internet. Only today, Canwest, Canada’s largest newspaper publisher, with twelve daily newspapers, sought bankruptcy protection for its entire newspaper division. Canwest is not the first big newspaper chain to go bust. It won’t be the last. The old international news order, which has been dominated by the west since the invention of the telegraph, is undergoing radical and widespread change, driven by the internet.
But what many people maybe don’t realise is that while there’s a crisis in the west, its boom time in Asian media.
Already, there may be almost three times as many internet users in Asia as in north America. As literacy grows and fast broadband spreads to even the most remote communities, the gap will grow even wider. Cheap new technology will mean that this new majority will not only be media consumers but also be increasingly sophisticated producers.
Which is why I’ve spent the last few days in Singapore.
I’ve been attending the Board meeting of AMIC, the Asian centred media research group, which has been investigating and charting these changes. Based in Singapore, AMIC is a truly international organisation with Board members from Malaysia, India, Japan, the Philippines and yours truly from Australia.
It was set up with German assistance more than thirty years ago to promote and educate socially responsible media in the interests of development and democracy. Today it runs websites, published scholarly books, organises training workshops and holds an annual conference which bring together academics, practitioners and activists from all over the Asia Pacific. This year, they will be discussing the new wave sweeping through “Technology and Culture: Communication Connectors and Dividers”.
AMIC might not have all the answers to what’s going on. But Asia is where the real questions will be asked.

Learning journalism in China Reply


Journalism educators need to think beyond the classroom to serve students facing internet driven cultural change. The first wave of change, online interactivity, is already breaking on once dominant newspaper groups. The second wave, Asia centred communications, has begun to challenge western dominance of international news and culture.

This year I took a group of QUT journalism students to China for a month, to work on its English language newspapers and publish online. Their project, which included research, internships, publication and reflection, aimed to create deeper and more nuanced learning than might be possible in conventional class groups.

You can access the report on this project by going to http://http://www.ejournalist.com.au/ejournalist_chinatrip.php. It includes examples of student work, photographs, opinions, links to published items and the Facebook page which held it all together.

Upfront and close with Chinese journalism Reply


Learning at Australian universities can be pretty boring. Most of the extra curricular activities I enjoyed have been shorn away as contemporary students struggle to make a living and pay their way. “Full Time” students now complain about going to lectures which can conflict with their jobs.

When I was a visiting Professor at Hong Kong University, they reckoned that only about a third of what students learned at university came from classes. Hong Kong University, unlike its Australian competitors, has a student social life enriched by active clubs and colleges. That’s how HKU students learn about team work, democracy, running budgets and social responsibility.

How can we make the learning experience not only more authentic, but more fun?

We can create special projects.

Six QUT journalism students (five pictured) are about to go to China for a month to explore Chinese journalism practices. They will be meeting Australian foreign correspondents, visiting China Daily, Global Times and CCTV. They will give seminars at Chinese Communications University.
The trip is being heavily subsidised by QUT as an Outward Mobility grant aimed at getting students to Asia.

The visit has been structured as part of their studies and will include research, work experience and reflective learning.

Snivelling about the Avian Flu 1


Each morning at Guangdong’s Shantou university, I awake to the sound of birdsong. Normally this would be a good thing. But I have been living in agrophobic Hong Kong where birdsong means the cry of foul avian flu carriers. After the SARS deaths caused a negative blip in the Hang Seng stock index, the vigilant Hong Kong authorities have been very concerned about the impact unspecified communicable diseases might have, especially on tourism. This view is not necessarily shared by the rugged villagers of Hong Kong’s New Territories who are rather fond of our feathered friends and who , as a result, have been tucking into roast birds and rice before Confucius was a boy.

The Hong Kong Civil service are not easily discouraged by this rural intransigence. Every television bulletin seems to contain images of weeping grandmothers being led away as a strike team composed of police, vets and cultural advisors, exterminate the family’s pet ducks. There are government ads on television warning that the best way to beat the avian flu is to eat plenty of vegetables and avoid sleeping with chooks. This may be sound advice but its not particularly comforting. The press can be quite alarming. Hong Kong must be the only place in the world where a picture of a dead magpie provides the centre for the front page lead story in the major daily newspaper.

Mainland China is a little more relaxed about the flu. On arrival at Shantou airport, one is asked to fill in a little, rudely printed form. One should tick the appropriate box if one is suffering from HIV/aids, psychosis or hepatitis. Howevere, one should immediately notify the authorities if one has a fever, watering eyes or, curiously, a “snivel”. The last category would obviously exclude snivelling Australians although there is no indication as to what would happen if one admitted to it. Everybody just gets a stamp and goes through.

Life in China is becoming much more sophisticated. For about A$6, I bought a bottle of 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon. The label boasted that , “the wine presents a limpid and clear ruby colour”. It was called “Greetwill” which I assumed was a misprint of “Great Wall”, since there was a photo of the celebrated barbarian exclusion device on the label. However, having drunk a little, I have come to believe that “Greetwill” is a misprint of “Great Swill”. It certainly has a lingering aftertaste, but not quite as promised. It starts with a soft burning sensation, not unlike inhaling Kowloon smog, before it explodes in the brain’s central cortex like a New Year fire cracker. Mao must have drunk quite a bit of it before he declared the cultural revolution, made the professors wear dunce hats and told people that otherwise unqualified “barefoot” doctors could cure anything from tinea to african sleeping sickness.
I confess it does become more accomodating after the first glass.
But will it stop the avian flu?
Only time will tell.

Morrison of Peking Reply


Book Review

The Man Who Died Twice
The life and adventures of Morrison of Peking
By Peter Thompson and Robert Macklin
Allen and Unwin, 380 pp, $32.95

Morrison of Peking became a model for Australian correspondents abroad. He was brave, handsome, resourceful and ultimately a celebrity. But there was more to Morrison than media hype. Like many other heroes of Victorian era journalism, he was also a racist, an agent of colonialism and quite possibly a British spy.

Through his influential reporting, George Morrison helped shape British and Australian views of what he described as an exotic and dangerous “Orient”. Morrison was the first eminent Australian journalist in Asia, whose personality sometimes seemed bigger news than the stories he covered. If he lived today, he might be offered a job on Sixty Minutes.

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