The University of Hong Kong hosts its HKU Taster Programme several times each year, giving teens a feel for the unique university experience that the school has to offer.
Fourteen-year-old Evan Leung, from Wah Yan College, was one of the students who took part in a recent Taster. “I was able to get a taste of different faculties of the campus including Economics, Journalism, Architecture and Computer Science and they are very interesting and new to me,” says Evan.
Evan spent most of his day at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC). There, a class that was originally a semester-long Principles of Journalism course, was condensed into a three-hour workshop led by former ABC News and CNN International journalist, Anne Kruger.
“What’s so exciting about working here is that students at this age that are so aware of new media,” said Kruger. “They’re not afraid to pick up their smartphone and use new tools, equipment, or apps and things like that. The smartphone is their world, they’re digital natives.”
Kruger wants students to question: what is good journalism and what should you be demanding from the media and journalists? She explained how crucial it is for budding journalists to dig deeper into a story.
Evan described the activities of the workshop, saying: “I had to work with my teammates to decide which sections of the paper each article should go in, and figure out which news stories would be important or interesting to Hongkongers. Then we had to design our sections by adding clip-art and using a font that would be eye-catching.”
At the JMSC, Kruger teaches an elective course that is available for all HKU students, no matter what they’re studying. Kruger says students are intrigued by the topic as it plays a huge role in their global society. Even so, a lot of the students tell her she has “kind of ruined it for them,” says Kruger. “They’ll never sit and watch the nightly news again without questioning the journalist: ‘That’s not verified, where did they get that information from?!’ And then I think: ‘Yes! This is great!’”
Asking questions like this is the heart of journalism, and it’s something that is being lost in recent years, as more news programmes and channels rush to get the story out first – without being certain of the facts.
“Unfortunately the competitive nature of journalism is what’s caused that. That’s where the standards drop, and that is what sticks in the public’s memory,” Kruger laments. “That’s why I think it’s all more essential that journalists remain independent, verify their information, and be really accountable and stand by their work.”
Studying journalism is a tough sell in Hong Kong, as many local parents “don’t view journalism as a career,” says Kruger. But there are plenty of opportunities for those who are dedicated. When one recent secondary school graduate got full marks on his exams, people expected him to study law, but he chose journalism instead – and he’s become a star student.
“This young man is passionate about telling the quality story,” says Kruger. “He has internships for Reuters, [TV programme] Good Morning America, he’s meeting famous people everyday while actively taking part in programmes here.”
Editors live to know what people are interested in, as everyone in the world is shaping the world together, and reacting together. Kruger, whose background as a professional reporter serves as an inspiration to her students, urges aspiring journalists to think about why they want to go into the field.
“If you’re curious and you care, those are the two most important things.”
As a true journalist you will do the work to learn the story 100 per cent, but then you have to ask yourself: have you given the big story to society?
HKU Taster @ Christmas will be held December 22-23, and registration starts October 21. Check out the HKU Taster website for more info.