Cultural meet 'n' greet
Hong Kong media students explore the Golden City
Posted: January 23, 2013
By Amy Wu
For the Post
Why did we fly more than 6,000 miles from Hong Kong to Prague, not including the pit stop in Dubai?
We were here to get to know the capital of the Czech Republic and also sharpen our reporting and multimedia skills. The city turned out to be the perfect backdrop for our storytelling projects, and ultimately an unforgettable experience.
This is the first year the School of Journalism and Communication at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) has held a Prague study tour. The trip, which ran Jan. 3-13, is a good example of experiential learning, during which students take the knowledge from the classroom and put it into practice.
David Wong, a professional consultant at the journalism school, organized the trip with the idea that Prague is attractive, affordable and a safe and colorful city to practice reporting, while learning more about the media. In addition, students would engage in hands-on training in multimedia.
Wong tapped Transitions Online (TOL), a nonprofit organization, to spearhead the multimedia training for the 15 student attendees. The Prague-based organization specializes in training journalists and students from Central Asia, and increasingly students from the Far East, including Hong Kong.
Jeremy Druker, executive editor of TOL, said that "there was a feeling that multimedia would be more useful to the students - a common program that would be interesting to students of different backgrounds." One of TOL's signature training components is a reporting project where students complete a story in Prague from idea to final production.
CUHK students worked in small groups based on their disciplines, including new media, global communication, advertising, corporate communication and journalism. The projects ranged from Prague's thriving beer culture and a marionette-making workshop to a profile of an immigrant who is a Chinese restaurant owner and the production of a commercial that would attract Chinese to Prague. The training format was often split between lectures in the morning and reporting and project time in the afternoon.
Dean Cox, a veteran photojournalist, trained students how to use technologies and reporting tactics to create a video or an audio slideshow accompanied by a written story. Pavel Hořejší, a seasoned photojournalist and native of Prague, offered detailed feedback on the photo component of the project, while Druker provided insight on the written pieces.
"I've always thought a big part of the courses we do in Prague is the practical assignment of going out in a completely foreign land and putting together an article and a photo essay, which I think is valuable for people who are used to being in a comfort zone," Druker says. "I think if we took lecturers to Hong Kong it wouldn't be the same; it's an adventure for them. The reporting project is so crucial because it's a real-life [reporting] experience."
Students agreed the project was a way to put their skills to work. Zhong Xin-yao and her teammates produced an audio slideshow about beer culture for their final project.
"The trainers really helped me to find some bad habits when writing the news report, like the [mainland China reporting] style," says Zhang, a journalism major who is a native of Guangzhou.
On the final day of the workshop, students received in-depth feedback from the trainers on their projects, some of which may have the opportunity to be published in TOL's online magazine or used for a future training.
"If you look strictly at the results from their projects, I was really impressed," Druker says.
Other students considered the real highlight visiting newsrooms and meeting the various editors at media outlets, such as Respekt, a weekly political magazine, and Radio Free Europe and educational institutions such as the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.
"I learned that propaganda [censorship] in the media isn't huge and that the media market is still somewhat traditional and in that sense more similar to mainland China," says Ivy Cheung, a new-media student.
Mostly, CUHK students saw the visit to Prague newsrooms as an exchange between media, culture and society.
"It's a good chance to communicate with the media, because they have many misconceptions about the Chinese media or about China's political situation, and we also learned more about their views toward China and the Chinese media," Zhong says.
The trip also offered plenty of time to simply enjoy the city.
At night, students explored Prague on their own, drinking in the food and the culture, shopping on Old Town Square, and catching concerts and opera. There was an unforgettable drive to Český Krumlov, and the traditional Czech meal of pig knuckles and roasted duck at Prague restaurant Kolkovna.
"I loved the architecture. [Czechs] are very protective of their history, and the whole environment is more historical, and more similar to my hometown," says Cheung, who is from Qingdao. In the end, all of us came away with an unforgettable experience, and many good memories."
Amy Wu can be reached at email@example.com