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Sino-American Journalism

Posted by Cassandra Kamp on September 12, 2008

The link between China and the Missouri school of Journalism dates back to 1917, when J-school alum John Powell (BS ’10) traveled to Shanghai to teach advertising. In 1921, Dean Walter Williams traveled to Beijing and Shanghai, giving lectures on the institution of journalism. A few years later, he would help found a journalism department at Yenching University. Since then, students, professors, and even a couple stone lions have made the transpacific flight between China and Columbia.

This afternoon, Missouri’s link with China grew even stronger.

As part of the Future’s Forum, four of China’s journalism elites convened with three of Missouri’s leading professionals to discuss Sino-American Journalism and examine the new trends of Journalism both in China and the United States. A crowd of about thirty, nearly half of whom were Chinese, came to see the panel discussion.

Excluding moderator Fritz Cropp’s introduction, the first speaker was Shaode Qin, chancellor of Fudan University, one of China’s premier journalism schools. Qin’s and the other Chinese speeches were translated by Dr. Ernest Zhang and Sheng Zhu of the Missouri School of Journalism. Qin spoke on the importance of educating the foundations of journalism even with the emerging convergence market. “We need to train [students] to grasp new technology,” says Qin, “but more importantly, we need to cultivate new ideas, a new spirit for journalism.” Before concluding, Qin emphasized the importance of ethics and responsibility in modern journalists.

Gang Gao, Executive Dean at Renmin University’s School of Journalism and Communications, outlined his three elements to a successful journalism curriculum. First, the faculty must have a diverse range of skills and knowledge that adapts to the journalism market. Second, each student must have not only multimedia skills, but also a solid background of the humanities, social sciences, scientific thinking, and methodology. Finally, a good curriculum must provide a sufficient laboratory, that uses advanced technology and is capable of cross-platform journalism. Hm, could Gao have modeled his ideal lab after the Future’s Lab in the Reynolds Journalism Institute?

Aihua Yan, President of the Qilu TV Station, gave a professional’s perspective. Yan addressed the art of anchoring, and how different apporaches to broadcasting can attract larger audiences. Until recently, he says, there were two markets for television in China: news and entertainment. Bridging these two markets, Yan says, required a talented anchor who could report news while maintaining an entertaining personality. One audience member later commented that the closest example of an American host that does this would be Glen Beck or Joe Scarborough, although most would argue that these two don’t technically report news.

The final Chinese professional to speak, Kewu Tian, came with perhaps the most impressive wrap sheet. Tian is the managing editor of Beijing Youth Daily, a news organization that operates ten magazines, four newspapers, and two websites. He weighed the pros and cons of putting a newspaper on the market for public investment. Going public, he says, improves the management of the company, allows capital to be financed through stock sales, and promotes the brand of the paper. However, a bad financial performance can damage a paper’s image, causing investor’s to quickly lose faith and the stock value of the company to plummet. Tian seemed to remain neutral in his conclusion, despite the fact that Beijing Media, Beijing Youth Daily’s company name, is listed on the Hong Kong market.

After Tian stepped down (around 4:45 p.m.), Fritz Cropp noted that in the interest of keeping to the schedule and concluding at 5:00, that the Missouri discussion leaders would not speak, and that the Q&A session would begin. The three Missouri panel members were Esther Thompson of the Missouri School of Journalism, Stacey Woelfel, News Director at KOMU TV-8 in Columbia, and Randy Smith, the Deputy Managing Editor for the Kansas City Star.

The most notable question came from Lindsay Toler, a senior at the Missouri School of Journalism who participated in this Summer’s internship program with the Olympic News Service in Beijing. She aksed why the panel didn’t discuss the “more obvious” topic of differences between Chinese and American journalism.

Gang Gao replied, “Despite our different cultures, professional journalism in China and America are more similar than different, and with the new convergence market, the similarities are increasing.”

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