The faces of China’s next gen foreign correspondents.

On Friday, I had the pleasure and honor of speaking to a group of MA students in journalism at Fudan University’s School of Journalism in Shanghai. For those who don’t know it – Fudan’s journalism program is the oldest in China (1929, I believe), and also one of its best and most respected. In recent years, as I understand the situation, more and more government money is flowing into Chinese J-schools, including Fudan’s, for – among other reasons – the purpose of preparing a young, well-educated group of foreign correspondents to staff the state-owned media’s planned expansion of its foreign bureaus. So, without further ado, the next generation of Chinese foreign correspondents (click to enlarge):

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Scary, aren’t they?

A couple of things to say about this group. First, no doubt about it, they are mostly female. This likely has to do with the fact that selection for this highly competitive program is largely based upon foreign language proficiency (they all read and speak English at a very high level), and – at least among those who apply to get into this program – foreign language proficiency correlates with being female.

Second, based upon my hour with them, and – more important – reports from their regular instructor, my good friend Mara Hvistendahl (a correspondent with the Chronicle of Higher Education, and freelance reporter for a bevy of other publications), they are smart, savvy and curious – good qualities in reporters. I spoke to them about my background and my experiences reporting on China’s recycling trade, and the questions that they posed to me (regarding sourcing, reporting “sensitive” subjects in China, audience) were pertinent and appropriately probing and aggressive. If they’re given the opportunity to do the foreign correspondent’s job in the way that it’s meant to be done, they’ll do just fine out there.

There were some fun moments in the course of that hour, but I think my favorite was the one that proved journalism school – no matter where it’s located – basically comes down to the same question. Toward the end of the session, one of the students raised her hand, glanced at her instructor, and asked something along the lines of: “Do you think it’s necessary that we attend journalism school to become journalists?” I glanced at the instructor – my good friend – and answered: “No, I don’t.” Thus ensued a brief discussion during which it was decided that, though J-school may not do much to develop skills that a journalist should already have (people skills, writing skills), you can’t replaced it for developing connections/guanxi. That is: some things never change – no matter where you go.

7 thoughts on “The faces of China’s next gen foreign correspondents.

  1. In few years the Chinese media will be more popular than the foreigner. Thanks for showing the true face.

  2. They may not look scary but you know full well that they’re going to take direction from editors under the control of some very scary people. Terrible post from somebody who thinks he’s a journalist.

  3. what a pity that Yancy is not in this photo and my face is half-displayed with my eye closed!

  4. The friendly faces of the CCP. Are they next 100 flowers? The new Red Guard? There are plenty of Chinese guys with great foreign, mostly english language skills. I would place some emphasis on having softer female faces and voices to query, grill, harass and berate the international community on behalf of the perfectly dye-jobbed CCP jabbas.

  5. I bet they were a great group, eager and innocent. What will be interesting is where most of them are in five or ten years. I’ve met hundreds of young Chinese journos over the years, and very few stay in the field – the censorship and unprofessionalism is soul-deadening for the dedicated, the indifferent can make more in marketing, and there are limited channels for career development.

    The Chinese journos who have stayed in the field overwhelmingly emigrated, and if they returned to China at all it was with foreign citizenship and for a foreign paper.

    Assertions that the Chinese media is the future is laughable given its shortcomings. While these kids may be the face of journalism’s future, it will be as staff of international media.

  6. While I have no personal knowledge of the media industry:

    The general uncertainty and very real risk must grow to be unbearable. No law applies if they make a big mis-step.

    A drudge can do the work and just not think. A huckster can, as well, but that is it. No one else can last.

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