Shanghai journalism students prepare to make waves

Oriental Morning Post editor spells out challenges of changing media landscape, says Hong Bing

July 10, 2014

I recently paid a visit to local newspaper the Oriental Morning Post (OMP) in Shanghai with a group of students from Fudan University’s School of Journalism.

It was a meeting between the future journalists we are training and a potential employer. The group was a mix of junior and senior undergraduate and graduate students. They met Qiu Bing, editor-in-chief of the OMP and the mastermind of its high-profile pilot programme to establish a new online community based around quality news and opinions.

The first question was from an undergraduate student who hopes to become a print journalist this summer: “I think I have been well trained for the past four years, but I still feel uncertain about the profession and its future – what is your opinion?”

Mr Qiu, with his trademark candidness, replied that “uncertainty” had become a nightmare for him and his colleagues, too.

That is the background for the launch of the OMP’s PengPai pilot programme (in Mandarin this sounds similar to both “paper” and “wild and exciting waves”). The print media industry in China has declined significantly in recent times. This year in Shanghai alone two newspapers with a total daily circulation of 1.25 million were shut down. More than 200 editorial office staff were left having to find new jobs. It is widely believed that these newspapers met their fate because they were too similar in their coverage and not competitive enough in the market.

“In short, we have to accept the truth that there will be more newspapers dying. But the OMP is making its best efforts to survive and develop, and I hope someone like you, who has made up your mind to join the crew, will make the same efforts,” Mr Qiu told his questioner from Fudan.

The second question was raised by a second-year student who is studying under the Journalism School’s new “2+2” programme, in which students spend the first two years of an undergraduate course in other departments of the university. She asked: “What kind of courses and training should we take in order to be more adaptable to multi-platform journalism, including your PengPai project?”

Mr Qiu replied: “Just one example. I guess most of you remember Gareth Bale’s winning goal for Real Madrid when they played Barcelona in April. True, it was a phenomenal goal; but how many of you realised that the goal started from the moment when Messi [Barcelona’s star player] lost control of the ball? And how much coverage has missed that fact?”

The question could be answered only in terms of using “your judgement, and this is somewhat beyond mere training in interviewing and writing”, Mr Qiu said.

The students laughed in agreement. As a former classmate and old friend of his, I understood his passion for football.

He then elaborated on the use of different graphic designs, teasers, headlines and story formats in print and online platforms.

That is also the direction in which our Journalism School is heading. The 2+2 format for undergraduates is aimed at equipping them with multidisciplinary backgrounds. In addition, a professional master’s programme devoted to new media journalism will be in place from September.

Everyone feels the wild and exciting waves.

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