Foreign Correspondent turns 104 Reply


Clare and Zhou Enlai

If you have ever been to the Hong Kong Foreign Correspondents Club, you might have seen  the Grande Dame of journalism, Clare Hollingworth, holding court in the library. The library has a special place in journalism, not that there are many books there. If you managed to get your self killed on assignment in the Viet Nam war, you got to have you photo on the wall there. Clare was on assignment long before that. She covered the Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939. She’s now 104! More…

An open letter to the Vice Chancellor of Deakin University, Professor Jane den Hollander Reply

Martin Hirst

Martin Hirst

Dear Professor den Hollander,

Let me introduce myself.

I have been a journalism Professor for fourteen years and a journalist for more than forty. In that time, I have reported and researched east and southeast Asia where freedom of speech is not considered a given, but is regularly contested by journalists seeking to widen it and authorities who may find its use uncomfortable.

Its an issue dear to me and many of my Asian colleagues some of whom have faced intimidation, beatings, imprisonment, and on occasion assassination. More…

Television News Clichés Reply

a9b7453d1ba06933f33162ea1e1218c1Television news cliches give the ABC’s Alan Sunderland a nervous twitch.

Sunderland, ABC News head of policy, is upset about  “those annoying clichés that infect our work”.

You know what I’m talking about. We’ve all been guilty of it at one time or another.

So I’m taking a stand. Or to be more accurate, I’m making a list.

It’s a list of things I never want to see or hear again. They were bearable the first 7,648 times. Now it’s over. More…

Journalism research by journalists 1

How do you reveal the best journalism practices to the very best journalism students?

After establishing a coursework journalism Masters program two decades ago, UTS this year launches Australia’s first Graduate School of Journalism. The School aims to become Australia’s premiere journalism education provider by underpinning its successful post graduate journalism teaching with research on journalism by journalists. More…

2011 in review Reply

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 10,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Who is Alan Knight? : an opinion on News Corporation 1

Error by omission is a frequent fault of journalists trying to balance concise writing against providing all the relevant information.

I am guilty of it myself sometimes.

This month, I was contacted by the Age and asked to write an opinion piece about the contest to secure the contract for the Australia Television Network, Australia’s voice to Asia. I wrote a piece which described the Network, currently managed by the ABC, as “pedestrian” . More…

Journalism’s futures 1

A streetside newsagency in Beijing.

If there is a crisis in journalism, its centred in American newspaper groups whose economic models have been undermined by the net.

We know that most Americans are too ideologically blinkered to even consider taxpayer supported alternatives like the BBC or the ABC. If anyone doesn’t consider obvious answers for the future, it would seem to be some of our American colleagues.

We should learn from American media. But the action is increasingly elsewhere, as information and cultural dominance begins to shift from the US towards the new economic superpowers. While we should be concerned about journalists’ jobs in older media empires, this is the future we need to address.

I reckon we should be looking to Asia, where journalism is booming.
Sure some Americans have been doing interesting things on the net. But there are now more than 300 million Chinese net users, plugged into a vibrant blogosphere which often critiques and interacts with government policies.

In Australia, we see the ABC’s News 24 as an important initiative, and considered locally, it is. But when I was in Beijing last year, I took my student interns to the CCTV master control, which was simultaneously broadcasting 40 high definition channels. China has just launched a new, global English-language television channel,operated by the Xinhua News Network. To quote my old pal, Hong Kong University Professor, Ying Chan:

“At a time when western media is retreating … China could be flooding the world with its perspective, giving the country a boost of soft power” said Chan. “With a lot of funding and improvements in its reporting, this new expansion should not be written off.”

The Australian Centre for Independent Journalism did a study this year on the explosion of international television news services. When it comes to such news, most people in the west think of CNN,or perhaps the BBC or al Jazeera. We identified more than fifteen major services, including innovative new news channels from France, Russia and even Iran. We found more than fifty minor services operating in the Indian sub-continent alone.

Perhaps our focus on American concerns about journalism may be another post colonial hangover, reflecting the ways we still get our news and agendas from the traditional sources, which privilege American newspapers justifiably worried about their futures.

So why are Australians holding a national conference about the future of journalism which takes the lead from American experts?

The Walkley Media Conference: “What’s the story? Powerful narrative and other tales from the future”, runs from August 9-12 in Sydney.

Bay Trip 2

We set out from the port of Aberdeen in the heat of late afternoon, heading south east to the Po Toi islands on the sea border with China. Aberdeen used to be a fishing village. Used to be. But that was before Hong Kong became the world’s gateway to communist run capitalism. Where village women once deftly piloted fishing junks around the harbour, there were now lines of white motor launches, looking more like marine apartment blocks than boats. We passed one called “Floating Asset” with a man in swimming trunks, lounging in the stern cabin, watching the business news on a wide screen TV.
We were turning seawards in an old wooden cabin cruiser, broad of beam and as practical as an elderly amah (Chinese maid). I sat in the bow where you could watch the heading and see the milk green South China Sea part and roll. The sun went down as we passed the old fort at Stanley where what was left of the British garrison surrendered to the Imperial Japanese army in 1942. I sipped a Chardonnay, lay back and thought of England.

Po Toi was almost asleep as we entered the bay. About ten years ago, the sea people’s ancient village had been smashed by a typhoon; the fist of the otherwise benevolent sea goddess, Tin Hau. Most of the locals took this as a sign to move to the air-conditioned comfort of the high rises of Hong Kong island where they traded fishing for land speculation, their rusty boats for Mercedes and their nets for digital phones. Those that remained were mostly old, with crinkled leather faces which peered from the small brick houses from which dim yellow lights still flickered. Tattered red and gold warnings to departed ghosts flapped on broken walls. A tap dripped, while in the distance, a dog barked. We walked with care, following the path as it wound up the hill through the tangled, darkening trees and down to the little white sand beach.

We were the only people at the restaurant, if that is what you call a roof above and a scrubbed wooden floor below. Our dinner; prawns, lobster and cod, swam innocently in plastic tubs ominously close to the glowing grill. Fresh Chinese seafood is a pleasure long remembered, particularly when you wash it down with Tsingtao, a german beer made by the Chinese for apparently medicinal purposes.

There were local dogs on the beach when I went walking. They were obsequiously friendly as only canines can be. They liked me , a foreign devil; on sight. But when the Chinese boatman from our launch tried to land, they went for him without a thought. I called them back and they ran to me, tails wagging, mouths wide with idiot dog grins. The boatman edged up the shore. The pack turned and snarled. I threw them a stick and they took off after it. The boatman saw his chance, jumped from his dinghy and made a run for it. The dogs were after him in a flash, howling and snapping, as they chased him up a small tree. I called them back. They licked my hand. The boatman jumped out of the tree and made for the restaurant . But was too slow for them. He was back up the tree kicking dogs as they jumped to bite his boots.

I thought this was decidedly odd. Why would a pack of dogs on an obscure Hong Kong island prefer visiting Europeans to native Chinese? Were they confused about who their masters were? Or was there something more sinister? Perhaps these were the imperialist running dogs we heard so much about during the Cultural Revolution? These political animals, much maligned by Mao, had undermined the Great Leap Forward, brought down the Gang of Four and were perhaps among the foreign agents now blamed by Xinhua for the Tiananmen Square “incident”. Maybe they had been hiding out at Po Toi for all these years, striking fear into the hearts of all those who loved Mother China. Let’s hope that the communist party aristocracy and their entourage of People’s Liberation Army investment consultants, Russian hookers, and Shanghai billionaires don’t land here after the handover, looking for a feed. They might get a surprise they didn’t bargain with Ms Thatcher for.