Global Business Journalism students are improving the quality of journalism in China and around the world

A talented group of global journalists, including the first graduates from Nepal, Jamaica and Ukraine.

A talented group of global journalists, including the first graduates from Nepal, Jamaica and Ukraine.

I am so excited about the opportunities I have had in China to work with journalism students — both international and Chinese — and professional journalists to improve the caliber of reporting and writing in China, and to prepare us all for the Brave New World of journalism in the Digital Age. Here is a transcript of my speech at the July 10 commencement of the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication Global Business Journalism Program.

Speaking to the 2015 graduating class of the Global Business Journalism Program at Tsinghua University.

Speaking to the 2015 graduating class of the Global Business Journalism Program at Tsinghua University.

I am honored, on behalf of the faculty of the Global Business Journalism Program, to congratulate you on your successful completion of graduate studies at the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication graduation.

It indeed has been an adventure – a voyage of discovery – for all of us. You represent the best of China and the best of the world.

Over the past eight years, students from more than 50 countries have studied together, worked together, gotten to know each other here in the Global Business Journalism Program at Tsinghua University. Ours is a vibrant tapestry of cultures and ideas. You have been exposed to new perspectives, whether they are from the minds of brilliant Chinese professors or veteran international journalists who have plied their trade at the highest levels in the United States and around the world. All of us have gained a better understanding of the rapidly changing world we are inheriting, the rise of China and the rapid transformation of its economy, the complicated dynamics of our interdependent global business world, the rapid transformation of our own world of journalism and the imperative to learn new multimedia and data skills to compete in the emerging journalism marketplace. You have been tested with rigor. You have passed the test. I am so proud of you.

Eight years ago, the Global Business Journalism Master’s Degree Program was just a dream, an idea conceived by some exceptionally creative souls at Tsinghua University in Beijing and at the International Center for Journalists in Washington. In just a few years, it has gained tremendous respect throughout China and around the world, attracting renowned international scholars and Pulitzer Prize winning journalists to work with our students and share their wisdom and their skills.

From the beginning, the GBJ program has been nurtured by the invaluable and incalculable support of Bloomberg News, with its unprecedented gift of ten of its priceless terminals, a series of guest lecturers and events, and a wonderful faculty member named Lee Miller.

One of Tsinghua's finest, Zhang Sihan, is heading to Columbia University to pursue a dual master's program in journalism and public policy.

One of Tsinghua’s finest, Zhang Sihan, is heading to Columbia University to pursue a dual master’s program in journalism and public policy.

And special thanks to my partner in the program, Dr. Hang Min, for her support, her wisdom and her guidance in making the GBJ program an invaluable resource for global journalism. Under her leadership, we have offered some of the most advanced classes in communication theory, as well as practical, advanced skills that will help our graduates succeed in their chosen field of endeavor, whether that be global business journalism, business, journalism, or something else somewhere on this globe.

By setting exacting standards and requiring rigorous coursework, the GBJ Program has helped to improve business journalism in China by training a new generation of highly qualified journalists specializing in economics and business. Our Chinese graduates now work at some of the most important media outlets in China, such as China Daily, Xinhua News Service, CCTV, and Radio Beijing, as well as at important international media outlets such as Bloomberg News.

That is a testament to the quality of our alumni. It also is a testament to the iron will of friends in the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication who have exhibited an unwavering commitment to our success and our continuing growth. Dr. Shi Anbin has been a champion of our cause and a special mentor to me as a newly minted college professor. Thanks, Dean Shi, for everything you have done to make GBJ what it is today, and thanks to Dr. Jin Jianbin and other school officials for their support.

Of course, as all of us know in business journalism, you can’t have an entrepreneurial venture without some venture capital. I would like to thank our founding sponsor, Bank of America, for its steadfast commitment to the program since 2007.

I would like to close by quoting from my favorite philosopher, who happens to be my grandfather, Barrows Dunham. Despite a turbulent professional career that included an unwelcome appearance before the U.S. House Un-American Activities Committee and a spot on the American blacklist during the Red Scare Era of the 1950s, my grandfather, a distinguished philosophy professor and internationally acclaimed author, never lost his sense of patriotism or optimism.

“Even now,” he once wrote, “we ourselves are determining the future, not by knowing what it will be, but by conceiving what it can be.”

None of us know what the future will hold. But with the knowledge we have gained at Tsinghua, the support of our families – and, yes, the Global Business Journalism family – we can conceive that better future.

Congratulations to the Tsinghua Global Business Journalism graduating class. Good luck to all of you. Thank you.


Pulitzer Prize winner Ken Herman encourages Tsinghua journalism students to ‘try different things’

Ken Herman (center) talks to Global Business Journalism Program students, flanked by Rick Dunham (left) and Sharon Jayson (right).

Ken Herman (center) talks to Global Business Journalism Program students, flanked by Rick Dunham (left) and Sharon Jayson (right).

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Ken Herman encouraged students in Tsinghua University’s Global Business Journalism Program to experiment with the many new technological tools available to today’s reporters.

“Try different things,” Herman, a columnist at the Austin American-Statesman in Texas, said in a lecture on May 12. “Don’t be afraid to fail. Keep trying and you’ll get better.”

Herman and his wife Sharon Jayson, a longtime reporter for USA Today, spoke to Professor Rick Dunham’s Data Journalism and Multimedia Business Reporting classes at the Tsinghua School of Journalism and Communication. They told the stories of their award-winning journalism careers and advised students to master traditional news writing, audio, video and social media.

Jayson’s three-decade career has included stints as a television news reporter and anchor, a radio station reporter, a radio network Austin bureau chief and a newspaper journalist in Washington and Austin.

“I love journalism,” she said. “I’m glad to go to work every single day.”

Herman, who covered George W. Bush both during his days as governor of Texas and president of the United States, won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service in 1977 for a series of stories in the Lufkin (Texas) News investigating the death of a young recruit in the U.S. military. The series led to congressional hearings and changes in American military recruiting practices. For the past six years, he has written a newspaper column that sometimes covers serious policy topics and often uses humor to make his points.

“I feel it is important to tell people what is going on in their government – or just entertain them,” he said.

Herman was one of the first print reporters to supplement his reports with multimedia elements such as video and audio. He said that some of his early efforts at video journalism were “pretty bad.”

“Make mistakes,” he said. “I certainly did. But you’ll learn how to do it and you’ll get better.”

Jayson, who specialized in coverage of younger Americans and human relationships during her decade at USA Today, said she knew she wanted to be a reporter from the age of 12, when she worked on a newspaper at her school. She encouraged the students to follow their passion in life, like she did, even if it does not lead to material wealth.

“Don’t just accept something because you think you’re going to get rich,” she said.

Ken and Sharon in Tian'anmen Square, with the Forbidden City in the background.

Ken and Sharon in Tian’anmen Square, with the Forbidden City in the background.


Ten tips to improve your news photography from a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner

Larry Price spoke to Global Business Journalism Program students on April 21. (Photo by Gaelle Patricia Chekma)

Larry Price spoke to Global Business Journalism Program students on April 21. (Photo by Gaelle Patricia Chekma)

Every year, the Pulitzer Prizes celebrate some of the world’s best journalism. Just hours after the 2015 Pulitzer winners were announced, my Global Business Journalism Program was fortunate to play host to a two-time recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for photography. Larry C. Price, a University of Texas graduate who won the Pulitzer while working for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and the Philadelphia Inquirer, dazzled my Multimedia Reporting and Data Journalism students with tales from his latest project, a multi-year investigation into the use of child labor in gold mining. His work — entitled “Tarnished” — was published in eBook form by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

Here are ten tips I culled from Larry’s lectures and the subsequent Q-and-A period. They are not a definitive list of “ten top tips.” They are just a collection of tips that I hope will be useful as you attempt to improve your photographic skills.

One of the many vivid photos from "Tarnished." This is from Larry Price's trip to a gold mining area of Burkina Faso.

One of the many vivid photos from “Tarnished.” This is from Larry Price’s trip to a gold mining area of Burkina Faso.

1. Always remember that you’re a storyteller.

Whatever publishing platform you’re on, and whatever visual medium you’re using, journalism is always about one thing. “It’s all about the stories,” Larry says. “Stories are as old as language. They’re everywhere. And journalism tells them.”

2. Look for something new — or a new take on an old image.

“Find something that hasn’t been done,” Larry says. “Or find a different spin on it.”

He says colleagues have sometimes discouraged him from shooting certain images, saying, “it’s been done.”

“My response is, ‘I haven’t done it,'” he says. “If somebody’s told the story, tell it differently.”

His example: a recent trip to Paris and a photo shoot at the Eiffel Tower.

The eBook "Tarnished" is available online from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

The eBook “Tarnished” is available online from the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting.

3. Get up early. Stay late.

Larry doesn’t use artificial lighting. As a result, he is looking for the best natural light available. “If you want your multimedia productions to look good, shoot them early in the morning or a few minutes before sunset,” he says.

That means long days of work and short nights of sleep.

4. Get close.

Every photographer has her or his own signature. For Larry, it’s close-ups. “I love tight facial portraits,” he said. “Force yourself to get close.”

Another favorite subject for his close-ups: “Hands and feet. That’s what it’s all about.”

5. Get personal.

To make a subject comfortable with you — especially if you are going to shove your camera into their face — is to develop a personal relationship with them. “I spend a lot of time getting rapport established before I take out a camera,” Larry says. “I develop that rapport so it doesn’t get uncomfortable to your subject.”

Of course, you can’t always do this when news is breaking, but it can help improve your image if you have a bit of time to prepare.

6. Keep shooting.

“When I’m in the field, it’s constant activity,” Larry says. “Digital allows you to shoot, review, delete a lot.” Don’t let your guard down when you’re on duty: You never know when the next great photo opportunity might come. “You can’t ever relax,” he says. “It’s a never-ending cycle of feeling guilty.”

On his most recent trip to Burkina Faso, Larry returned with 37,000 frames. “I always have a lot of failures,” he notes. “I shoot a lot of pictures.”

7. Minimize your vertical shots.

Horizontal photographs work best on digital platforms, whether that’s a mobile device or a computer. And if you’re taking video, make sure it’s horizontal. “Never shoot vertical video,” warns Larry. “It’s useless. Half your space is wasted.” He rarely takes vertical stills, except for portraits. But he likes the square format popularized by Instagram. “Square is a very good portrait format — a little more artsy,” he says.

8. Stay natural.

Great photographers don’t cheat with editing programs that alter reality. “I don’t do a lot of Photoshop with my pictures,” he said. “I don’t exaggerate the colors or anything.”

9. Take good notes.

You need to have the spelling of names, correct ages and the locations of cities or villages. Larry always uses two notebooks. He also records the GPS coordinates of everything.

10. One old-fashioned photo composition rule.

“Don’t ever put people in the middle of the frame,” he says.

Matt Haldane has a front row seat for Larry Price's lecture at Tsinghua.

Matt Haldane has a front row seat for Larry Price’s lecture at Tsinghua.


Congratulations to 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner Lisa Falkenberg, who exposed injustice in Texas justice

Lisa Falkenberg gets a hug from Chron colleague Tony Freemantle after winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. (Photo by Steve Gonzales)

Lisa Falkenberg gets a hug from Chron colleague Tony Freemantle after winning the Pulitzer Prize for commentary. (Photo by Steve Gonzales)


What a thrilling way to start the day! On the morning I will host two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Larry Price in my Global Business Journalism classes at Tsinghua University, I wake up to news that my longtime Houston Chronicle colleague Lisa Falkenberg has won the 2015 Pulitzer for commentary.

Thoroughly deserved. Lisa’s compelling columns exposed deep injustices in the justice system. The scales of justice in Texas are weighted … and not in favor of the individual.

Many in Houston will note that this is the first Pulitzer Prize in the history of the Houston Chronicle. Yes, that is a historical footnote worth noting. But let’s not forget that this prize was given because Lisa described in a compelling and clear nature the deep, systemic flaws in the local criminal justice system. To honor Lisa, let’s have more than champagne. Let’s fix the perversions of justice that take place in Texas.

I can now say that I once covered an election from the cluttered cubicle of a Pulitzer Prize winner, when she was on maternity leave.

Have a great celebration with Mizanur and the family, Lisa. And let’s see if we can do something about the ills you exposed.


Experimenting with data visualization: Here are some interactive graphics I have developed

Teaching Data Journalism at Tsinghua. (Photo by Zhang Sihan)

Teaching Data Journalism at Tsinghua. (Photo by Zhang Sihan)

Data journalism has become an indispensable part of the news world. Every journalist who hopes to have a job in five or ten years will be required to have at least a basic understanding of spread sheets, data scraping, data cleaning, data visualization and coding.

As part of the new Data Journalism course I have created for the Global Business Journalism Program at Tsinghua University, I am experimenting with data visualization platforms. Here are a few examples. (If my WordPress blog platform will not allow you to open the embedded graphics, you can click on the links to take you to the pages where you can view them.)

I’d love to get your feedback … and some suggestions on platforms that could be useful for data viz projects.

THE VALUE OF THE U.S. DOLLAR OVER THE PAST DECADE PLOTTING AGAINST SIX INTERNATIONAL CURRENCIES

FROM SILK:

//currencies-vs-dollar.silk.co/s/embed/linechart/collection/currency-silk/numeric/china/numeric/switzerland/numeric/uk/numeric/japan/numeric/eu-euro/numeric/russia/order/asc/title/on/silk.co/slice/0/12
Data from currencies-vs-dollar.silk.co

FROM SILK:
http://goo.gl/JVSGLH

//currencies-vs-dollar.silk.co/s/embed/barchart/collection/currency-silk/numeric/uk/numeric/russia/numeric/eu-euro/numeric/japan/numeric/china/numeric/switzerland
Data from currencies-vs-dollar.silk.co

THE 2016 REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL FIELD: A SAMPLING OF AN UNFORMED CONTEST

FROM BAIDU VIZ PRODUCT:
http://tushuo.baidu.com/p.php?p=dta8dmpds8hkvksww


The Interview: Rude, crude, sexist, racist … with a modicum of political propaganda value

Discussing "The Interview" on CCTV.

Discussing “The Interview” on CCTV.

Like many a TV pundit in our 24/7 news world, I was asked to comment on the movie “The Interview” before I saw it. My words of purported wisdom aired on CCTV’s “Dialogue” program on Jan. 2.

Now, through the wonders of Netflix, I’ve finally seen the movie that launched a thousand schemes. Here’s what I thought:

It was rude, crude, puerile, tasteless, sexist, racist, unsophisticated … and better than I thought it was going to be.

You can guess that this isn’t my kind of movie. I don’t like potty jokes. The movie’s fixation on the bodily functions of the North Korean dictator, not to mention the human orifices of its protagonist, are suitable for seventh grade boys, not (chronologically) adult moviegoers. As Roger Ebert wrote in his review of the execrable movie “The Love Guru“: “This film could have been written on toilet walls by callow adolescents. Every reference to a human sex organ or process of defecation is not automatically funny simply because it is naughty.”

But “The Interview” offers much more to loathe. Its treatment of every one of its female characters as sex objects is odious. Its replaying of decade-old Hollywood Asian stereotypes is retrograde racism. Oh, the movie also was way too long and self-indulgent.

Those are some of the less objectionable elements of “The Interview.”

I don’t know about you, but I have a fundamental problem with a movie about the assassination of a living leader. It just crosses a line in my mind. Imagine what Americans would say if a Pakistani … or French … or Chinese … or Canadian “comedy” centered on a plot to kill the U.S. president. I don’t care how odious a leader is. You just don’t make a movie about assassinating living characters. (Remember how “The Manchurian Candidate” disappeared for two decades after the Kennedy assassination. And it was fiction.)

One more thing: “The Interview” is completely unbelievable. I am a big believer in “suspension of disbelief” for Hollywood fantasies. I’ll play along with the far-fetched concept that a CIA “babe” convinced two sex-crazed journalists to join an assassination plot. But they lost me when they got to the North Korean palace and kept talking openly about their assassination plans. OK, buddy, if the movie is about this paranoid North Korean dictator, don’t you think that he might just have been bugging your room and listening to your every word? Don’t you think you might be a wee bit careful discussing your murderous plans in loud voices? That may have gone over the heads of the potty-humor gang, but the other 99.9 percent of us are going to have a problem with it.

“The Interview” may be without redeeming social value, but it does have a bit of political propaganda value. The movie was at its best when it skewered the Kim dynasty for its gulags, its decision to focus on nukes, not nutrition, its overblown rhetoric, its paranoia and personal quirks. The transformation of the Kim Jong Un character from personable Dennis Rodman road show buddy to Stalinesque maniac was, from the perspective of political propaganda, quite effective.

I can understand why (alleged) North Korean hackers didn’t want the world to see this depiction of their dear leader. But I still can’t buy a movie that makes the dear leader into the dearly departed leader.

If you want to see the segment of CCTV’s “Dialogue” program in which I discuss “The Interview” with Tsinghua University colleague Shi Anbin, here’s the URL: http://english.cntv.cn/2015/01/03/VIDE1420295520064235.shtml

CCTV Dialogue program on “The Interview”


Ten impossible dreams for 2015, from Louie Gohmert to Chris Christie

Chris Christie and the Joneses: A bro-hug for the ages.

Chris Christie and the Joneses: A bro-hug for the ages.

It’s a New Year, and everybody can dream big. In politics, every governor and senator, every Clinton and Bush, can dream of getting elected president next year. In sports, every team can dream of winning the championship. (Well, maybe not the Philadelphia 76ers.) In Hollywood, every crappy moviemaker can dream of hitting the jackpot with a smutty pseudo-farce involving a controversial world figure.

So many dreams. So little time.

To save time, here are 20 quests that, like Don Quixote de la Mancha, are not likely to end in success.

Louie Gohmert practices his sharpshooting in Quantico, Va.

Louie Gohmert practices his sharpshooting in Quantico, Va.

1. House Speaker Louie Gohmert

Not gonna happen. Only on Planet Colbert.

2. Republican presidential frontrunner Rick Perry

Too many Texans — or brothers of Texans … or blood brothers of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones — in the race. Plus there are those precious memories of the 2012 campaign.

3. Super Bowl Champion Philadelphia Eagles

It’s never happened. Why should this upcoming season be any different? (Even though it will be 2016 before we know for sure.)

4. Respected sports owner Dan Snyder

Only one hope for redemption: Replace that racist football team nickname with the Washington Generals to honor the Great American War Machine — and to commemorate the only team to lose thousands of times to the Harlem Globetrotters.

5. Academy Award winning film “The Interview”

Let’s be more realistic: A Razzy for worst movie, worst director, worst actor, worst supporting actor, worst idea for a movie.

6. Popular New Jersey Governor Chris Christie

For a man who got re-elected by an overwhelming majority in a Democratic state, the Joisey guvn’r has managed to alienate almost everybody outside of the Dallas Cowboys owners’ box. Eagles, Giants and Lions fans top the long, long list, followed by George Washington Bridge commuters, Republican conservatives and citizens who believe in civil discourse. At least he isn’t running for anything in the future.

7. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer

The New York Democrat has been waiting and waiting and waiting for Majority Leader Harry Reid to depart the Senate, either voluntarily or not. Then the voters messed everything up by putting the Republicans in the majority.

8. Authoritative magazine Rolling Stone

It gathers no moss, but it gathers lots of other smelly stuff as a result of the UVa rape story debacle. Some click-bait web site could do a Rolling Stone “top ten ways to destroy what’s left of your reputation.”

9. An all-Southeast Conference national championship game

We got the mini-playoff that the for-profit college football conferences wanted and then two non-SEC teams ruined it all. Proving that even the most powerful interests can’t always control everything.

10. Penn State professor Tom Corbett

Pennsylvania’s ex-governor could use a job, but it’s not going to be in Happy Valley, where everybody is mad at him for his ham-fisted role in the Joe Paterno affair. Paterno’s friends and family despise the man — and did whatever they could to defeat him. Paterno’s critics marvel at his incompetence. No Ph.D. here.


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