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.


What’s in and what’s out in 2014

Image

Moonrise over the ancient city wall, Xi’an.

Just a few things have changed in my life this year.

New job. New city. New country. New life.

Teaching journalism in China. It’s almost as much of a challenge as practicing journalism in America.

Here are some of the things that are “in” in my new life at Tsinghua University — and some of the old, familiar things I’ve left behind.

OUT: Texas on the Potomac
IN: Yankee on Tiananmen Square

OUT: Hikes on the National Mall
IN: Hikes on the Great Wall

OUT: Bike helmets
IN: Anti-pollution masks

OUT: Turn signals
IN: Chaos on the road

OUT: The second most congested commute in America
IN: The second most congested commute in the world

OUT: Considering something three days old as new
IN: Considering something three centuries old as new

OUT: Finnish saunas
IN: Chinese massages

OUT: American Chinese food
IN: Real Chinese food

OUT: DC Metro
IN: A subway system with trains every two minutes, polite employees and escalators that actually work

OUT: Dysfunctional democracy
IN: Democracy?

OUT: Taking your shoes off at airports
IN: VPNs to access Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WordPress

OUT: Rush Limbaugh’s rants against Barack Obama
IN: Chinese media rants against Japanese Prime Minister Abe

OUT: The New York Times
IN: People’s Daily

OUT: The Abraham Lincoln statue at the Lincoln Memorial
IN: The terracotta warriors of Xi’an

OUT: Delicious Chesapeake crab cakes
IN: Delicious Chinese dumplings

OUT: Lobster rolls from food trucks
IN: Stinky tofu from street vendors

OUT: Scrapple
IN: Chicken feet, fish lips and duck brains

OUT: The Washington Redskins
IN: Mao’s little red book

OUT: Obscenely expensive Internet service
IN: Unreliable Internet, spotty WiFi and the Great Firewall of China

OUT: Obamacare
IN: Truly socialized medicine

OUT: Soccer moms
IN: Ping pong dads

OUT: 24/7 deadlines
IN: Monthlong breaks between semesters (We call them “district work periods”)

OUT: Suits and ties
IN: Casual Friday every day

The dress code is a lot more casual -- even for a China Radio International appearance.

The dress code is a lot more casual — even for a China Radio International appearance.


An American in Tiananmen on China’s National Day

An indelible image that changed world history -- October 1, 1949.

An indelible image that changed world history — October 1, 1949.

On Oct. 1, 1949, Mao Zedong read a statement before a bank of microphones and hundreds of thousands of people assembled in Tiananmen Square declaring the formation of the People’s Republic of China.

Sixty-four years later, I was one of the perhaps dozens of “westerners” visiting Beijing’s most famous landmark on China’s National Day holiday. It is a festive celebration, with special decorations, tourist-friendly hats, face painting, parades and family pilgrimmages.

The Lion and Mao. (Photo by Rick Dunham)

The Lion and Mao. (Photo by Rick Dunham)

The scene, I thought, was very much like the Fourth of July celebrations on the National Mall in Washington. Patriotism, pageantry, family, country.

My small group of three Americans (thanks, Caroline and Sara) tried to blend in with the hundreds of thousands — more probably, millions — of Chinese tourists. Well, we were never going to blend in. Caroline and Sara are striking young blondes, and perhaps a dozen Chinese families asked to have their photos taken with them. (Nobody asked me.)

We walked around Tiananmen, headed inside the main gate toward the Forbidden City, and then wandered through the historic core of old Beijing.

I hope this photo essay gives you a sense of the grandeur and the scope of the day.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.