In September, I will be taking over as Director of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre (JMSC) at the University of Hong Kong.
You may have seen the announcement on the JMSC website here.
It’s a challenging time for the media, not just in Hong Kong, but in Asia and the world. Economically, the old revenue model for print media has been thoroughly disrupted, and no one knows what the new media ecosystem will look like. And in Hong Kong, there are the added political challenges. Press freedom feels constantly under threat, and there are fears that self-censorship is rising. The case of the Hong Kong booksellers, and the unsatisfactory response by the Hong Kong government and police, has further unnerved locals.
The next months and years look to be momentous for Hong Kong, with upcoming elections for LegCo, a selection for a new chief executive next year and, at the same time, the twentieth anniversary of the 1997 Handover to China — all happening in the wake of 2014 “Occupy” protests which cleaved society. Adding to the tensions was the announcement this week of a new Hong Kong National Party advocating independence for the territory, founded by a former “Occupy” leader, which drew a swift and strong rebuke from the Beijing.
On top of that, we have the prospect of a sharp economic slowdown in mainland China and its concurrent impact on Hong Kong.
Amid all these coursing political and economic currents, the JMSC needs to remain a bastion of independence, autonomy and journalistic integrity.
In response to the myriad industry challenges, the JMSC must be, first, the incubator of new ideas and, second, the place where the next generation of journalists can get trained and equipped to operate in this new media ecosystem. We also need to make sure that our students are imbued with the universal journalistic values of objectivity, impartiality, fairness, honesty, integrity, attention to detail and fact-based reporting that I learned and came to value during my three decades at The Washington Post.
Our students are the future journalists and correspondents who will be covering Hong Kong, China, the Asia-Pacific region and the world. I see my job as making sure they bring to the job those universal values of journalistic integrity — and of course the ability to tell a compelling story, to enliven debate, to expose wrongdoing, to shed light on problems and, where needed, to give a voice to the voiceless. That kind of fact-based journalism, and impact journalism, is something we should all support. It is also crucial to the functioning of society.
I’ll be having more to say in this space later, about Hong Kong, China and the state of the media. For now, I’m looking forward to this new challenge. And I’m definitely looking forward to getting back to Hong Kong.
Wish me luck!