The Queensland University of Technology China Project
Journalism is expected to mediate, inform, and critique our societies. Journalism educators therefore need to produce graduates with the intellect to make sense of what's going on and not just develop the technical skills needed to get jobs.
They are doing so when the journalism industry itself is being revolutionised by digital media and the internet, and then transformed as the new media users in Asia eclipse western dominance of international news and culture.
However, universities which seek to offer journalism courses can be constrained by industry irrelevant staff, shrinking technology budgets and a reliance of class room based pedagogies.
We need to think outside the classroom.
The Queensland University of Technology China Project this year took six of its best journalism undergraduates to China for a month, where they:
QUT subsidised the project so that a month's accommodation and return air fair to Beijing cost each student A$500. Enrolment in the double subject project was selective, based on an expression of interest and consideration of grade point average. As a result, six students, “the Beijing six” were enrolled.
Melanie Arnost, a second year journalism student said that it was “a chance for me to take another step closer to “being the change I wish to see” and reporting on issues I am passionate about, all whilst being immersed in a culture with an abundance of history”
Before departing Australia, the students were required to research current issues in Chinese media. Paul Sutherland used western sources to explore censorship.
In China itself, the group spent about three days a week at internships inside China Daily, one of China 's leading English language publications. Their experiences were recorded on Facebook so that friends and family at home could share photographs and essays. It includes reflections, essays, photographs, videos and other material. The Facebook page also served as a portal for experienced ‘old China hands' so that they might assist the students with specific China knowledge. As a result, the Facebook group page was a key resource and remains as record of the project activities. (The Facebook page is available on PDF, if you don't have a Facebook account).
All of the group published stories in China Daily online or its competitor, Global Times. Back In Australia, they were required to write a researched paper on what they now thought were the major issues in Chinese media. Monique Ross argued that we should adopt a nuanced approach to Chinese media which are “beginning to fulfill journalisms goal to spark debate in the public sphere, to advocate, to inform and to instigate change.”
Finally, the students were asked to reflect on what they might have learned. Kathleen Calderwood wrote, “we got the rare opportunity to live and work in a highly misunderstood culture which we all grew to embrace and I'm sure all intend to return to.”
The students agreed that the trip had not only changed the way the saw China, but also how they planned to practice journalism.
The project combined traditional research, internship, production work, and reflection. While each of these elements can be present in conventional courses, to bring them together in a foreign location challenged student expectations, encouraged self-reliance and demanded a high level of professional skills.
Dr Judith Clarke, Baptist University, Hong Kong
Elliott S. Parker, Central Michigan University, USA
Dr Lee Richard Duffield, Queensland University of Technology
Jim Tully, University of Canterbury, New Zealand
Dr Kasun Ubayasiri, Queensland University of Technology
Dr Stephen Stockwell, Griffith University
Philip Cass, Zayed University, United Arab Emirates
Dr Steve Quinn, Zayed University, United Arab Emirates
Ejournalist: refereed media journal. ISSN 1444-741X