Fancy a meeting with the editor of the New York Times, anyone? How about sitting in on CNN’s morning editorial meeting? This is the kind of amazing inside access Monash Masters students had on their recent Global Journalism field trip to Hong Kong.
What is the Hong Kong field trip?
The field trip is an unrivalled learning experience that gives students of Journalism, Communication and Media and International Relations an opportunity to meet working professionals in the global media hub of Hong Kong. Led by teachers Alison Stieven-Taylor and Nick Parkin, the inaugural trip ran for one week and was a high energy affair, with students visiting a wide range of international media organisations.
“Students were able to ask direct questions to Hong Kong's leading international journalism practitioners, and get advice on how they might be able to enter this competitive industry. The students learned so much from this process, and were completely inspired,” said Nick Parkin.
Some of the highlights of this year’s trip included meeting the Editor of the New York Times (Asia Pacific) and the Editor in Chief of AFP, being invited to sit in on CNN’s morning editorial session with senior staff, learning about data journalism at Google News Lab, and getting a personal tour of the Foreign Correspondent's Club with the BBC's Hong Kong correspondent.
“I was truly blown away by the kind of access we got – it was fantastic! … It’s amazing first hand experience for students,” Alison Stieven-Taylor commented, “And as a long term practicing journalist myself, to get in front of the editor of the New York Times for an hour and a half, that would never happen! So for me, it showed what extraordinary access Monash had, and it shows its reputation.”
Master's student, Koren Harvey, was also amazed by the doors that were open to her and her fellow students.
“Going into the trip, I thought we'd get a little time with some world-renowned organisations but I didn't expect the level of access we enjoyed or the candour with which people spoke. It was an exceptional experience and I particularly appreciated the collegial way the speakers approached our encounters – we weren't just students, but journalistic colleagues that they could speak openly with,” said Koren.
Why Hong Kong?
Hong Kong has a long reputation as a global media hub, particularly in Asia, and so it's a great place for students to gain new understandings about the changing media climate. And nowhere is it changing faster than in Hong Kong.
“It's an exciting time in journalism, technology has disrupted traditional media outlets, there’s a concern about where the jobs of the future will come from, but the wonderful thing is that new platforms are opening up all the time, and Hong Kong is emerging as a global hub for this,” said Alison.
Hong Kong is a base for many foreign correspondents covering the Asia Pacific, and students heard fascinating stories of what it’s like being a reporter on the ground, including in conflict zones like Afghanistan.
“The dream of many reporters is to one day become a foreign correspondent. I think getting an opportunity to meet with some of these practitioners as a student is inspiring, insightful and educative. Being able to do this in a foreign country, where these correspondents actually live and work, adds an extra level of insight to the whole experience,” said Nick Parkin.
The timing of the field trip in June 2017 also coincided with the 20-year handover anniversary and China’s President, Xi Jinping’s, first time visit to Hong Kong, with protests on the streets, and a lot going on in the media.
Monash students were able to get a front row view of what was happening, and to be part of the discussion about what it meant for Hong Kong press freedom, asking questions directly to media practitioners.
Nick Parkin commented that feedback from the organisations that students visited was very positive.
“Some of the students asked some tough and fearless questions – always a good way to impress fellow journalists!” said Nick.
Hands on learning about journalism and the media
The field trip is part of an optional study unit ‘Global Journalism: Hong Kong field school' (APG5190).
The unit's founder and co-coordinator Dr Deb Anderson explained that, “Today's graduates need to be effective ‘global citizens' – people who excel at cross-cultural communication, and who know how to engage ethically in an internationalised world.”
The study unit starts on campus in Australia laying the groundwork for what students will encounter in the field.
Students are well prepared to make the most of the opportunities they get in Hong Kong, having prepared questions and in some cases, printed their business cards!
“Yes, we prep them [the students] really well, so by the time they get there they’re not hanging back! Some of them even begin thinking about the real possibilities that exist for finding work there, and they aren’t shy about handing out their business cards, ” said Alison.
Behind the scenes, staff began planning the trip 12 months in advance, locking in the high level meetings and negotiating access to key media players, so by the time the students arrived everything was ready to go. It’s a tight but rewarding schedule that aims to make the most of the time and the exposure to the Hong Kong media world.
“It's really well organised, there’s a great vibe, and it's fast paced. We used public transport and did everything as a group. Taking in Hong Kong on the way to the next amazing meeting was a bonus,” said Alison, “It’s a great mix of people .. and the group had fantastic energy!”
Students kept a diary in Hong Kong to record their reflections and insights on a daily basis and also began working on a feature article, getting a sense of what it would be like to have an international assignment and work to a deadline in the field.
This year the topic for the feature article was ‘How to get a job in journalism,' leading us to wonder if anyone answered by simply saying, “Make sure you go on a Monash Journalism international field trip!!”
The three best student articles were recently published in Mojo (Monash Journalism’s independent news and current affairs website), so for more about what students learnt about the future of journalism, check out their stories:
- Evolution the key for a new breed of journalists by James Manton
- A future in journalism – an industry that’s still growing by Koren Harvey
- Don’t be too choosy: getting a start in journalism, according to the experts by Hannah Hill
International field trips with Monash Arts
Interested in doing something similar to this? Monash also runs a Journalism Futures: New York field School.