Message from Keith
Welcome back to a new academic year!
It was great to see our journalism students back face-to-face for the start of the semester. Hong Kong is still trying to tamp down a smattering of Covid-19 cases, particularly the highly infectious Delta variant. But at the University of Hong Kong, and here at HKU Journalism, we are back to in-person classes and face-to-face learning.
Of course, there are a few caveats, necessary in the interest of health and safety. Face masks are still de rigueur, classrooms can only be filled to three-quarters of the usual occupancy and students and staff are asked to exercise common-sense rules of hand sanitising and social distancing. But unlike last year when much of the teaching was done remotely online, this year the campus is back to its normal buzz.
We have a few new faces in our programme, and we will be offering some new courses in the coming year. But our core mission remains the same — equipping our students with the tools they need to become professionals in the field and to train the next generation of storytellers across all platforms.
It’s also great to see so many students still interested in studying journalism.
After the disruptions and challenges of the past 18 months, particularly since the imposition of the new National Security Law in Hong Kong, it might have been expected to see a drop off in interest, with prospective students being concerned about treading into sensitive areas. It is heartening to see that so many students still recognise the value of journalism to society, as a way to hold power to account and give voice to the voiceless.
As I’ve said before, journalists pursuing truthful, fact-based, objective reporting should have nothing to worry about under the new security law. In fact, the challenges underscore what we strive to teach — that journalists should not be activists or advocates, but guided by only one thing: getting to the facts and telling the story as accurately as possible. There shouldn’t be any self-restraint, self-limitation or self-censorship. In other words, it’s full steam ahead.
We are at a fascinating inflection point in history. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to upend the global economy and expose weaknesses in national healthcare systems. The vaccine rollout has highlighted the disparity between the rich world and the poor. The effects of climate change are being felt daily with devastating wildfires, debilitating floods and record temperatures. Distrust in established institutions is at an all-time high, and there has been a growing global demand for social and racial justice.
All these issues need journalists to chronicle events and to find the human stories to tell. It’s what journalism is all about. And there’s never been a better time to study journalism than right now.
Keith B. Richburg
Director, Journalism and Media Studies Centre