The traditional media may have already passed its golden age, but it still appeals to many young job-seekers. It's not a highly paid profession, but the sense of mission one can derive from it has helped this sector survive hard times and continue to appeal to young people.
The local media is quite a well-developed industry but most news organisations are not willing to invest in professional training for staff. Recruits and fresh graduates are often thrown in at the deep end and expected to learn on the job.
Due to limited career advancement, many experienced journalists choose to leave but find it difficult to seek alternative careers. Many end up joining the public relations and corporate communications sector.
The media ecosystem seems to be fast eroding but, even so, many young people are still attracted to the dynamic and challenging nature of the work. This has led many universities to introduce journalism courses.
Many local universities and higher education institutions provide such courses. They include the University of Hong Kong, Chinese University, Baptist University, Shue Yan University and Chu Hai College. Despite the competition in the market, the Hang Seng Management College has applied to the government to offer a bachelor of journalism and communication programme, with a focus on training business and financial journalists.
It's a well-known fact that financial journalists are a lot more employable than other types of journalists because of their specialised knowledge. Those with a few years of experience can join listed companies or investment firms afterwards. One example is the success story of Lo Wing-hung, chief executive of Sing Tao News Corp. Lo was once a finance reporter and now commands a seven-figure annual salary. It shows that financial journalism courses have a strong market niche.
To maintain the high quality of these courses, the government needs to take an active role to assess and monitor them.
Hang Seng Management College has appointed a number of high-powered academic consultants and media professionals to make sure it can provide top-quality courses. The panel of experts includes Professor Paul Lee Siu-nam, dean of social sciences at Chinese University; Baptist University journalism professor Yu Xu; i-Cable News managing director Ronald Chiu Ying-chun; and the chief editor of the Hong Kong Economic Journal, Chan King-cheung.
The government also has a team of top assessors, including Peter Goodwin, director of research at the school of media of the University of Westminster; Leung Wing-kwong, associate head of City University's department of Chinese, translation and linguistics; Chan Yuen-ying, director of HKU's Journalism and Media Studies Centre; and Lesley Cheung Wai-man of the Hong Kong Council for Accreditation of Academic and Vocational Qualifications.
Hang Seng's application was rejected last year and the assessing committee subsequently laid down a number of conditions for the college. After including these requirements, the college resubmitted its application, which is still being considered.
Academic accreditation is a tedious process that can take years to complete. But, the Hang Seng application may have been unfairly affected and delayed. Some existing journalism courses seem to have shifted their focus onto financial journalism in order to attract more students. The latest trend may have created some kind of unhealthy competition in the market, making it difficult for the Hang Seng programme to take off.
I appreciate the government's efforts in ensuring the highest quality and standards in our academic institutions. But the Hang Seng application has been under scrutiny for some time and a decision is overdue. The college is an elite business school with many years of outstanding educational achievements. I have total confidence that it will contribute immensely to the nurturing of our next generation of media professionals, and help maintain and facilitate our media's long-term survival.
Albert Cheng King-hon is a political commentator