More Great Student Journalism

Writers Workshop, my apt

If you’re unmarried at 27, you’re a “leftover lady” – Reese explores this ridiculous problem in the third and last batch of student final pieces, (the first batch here) presented aloud at my apt, over lunch. For a look at some parents’ alarmed, creative reaction to their kids potentially being leftover, we travel with Jolie (and in a related piece, Natalie) to Matchmaker’s Park, a well-done tale (she’s even recruited as good bride material). THose poor, anxious parents stand for hours with placards advertising their children to other anxious parents.



Lucia told the story of an NGO founded by China’s  leading, pioneering investigative journalist Wang Keqing, who sometimes teaches in this department, to help miners and other impoverished Chinese industrial workers with black lung disease. Some on staff were initially persecuted, for embarrassing the government. The NGO is one of few–it’s a new and uncertain area of China’s nascent, still-beleaguered civil society. Happily, it recently got on the government’s good side, and a few celebrities have lined up for a big fundraiser this month.

Aileen takes us on a journey through her feelings of patriotism and yet demand for information about her home that she loves,  China, on a trip into the troubled Tibetan area, Qinghai. She seeks to explore the unrest (while translating for a journalist from India), and must grapple with being accused by security forces, at every step, of being a traitor.

Aileen journeyed to Tibetan Qinghai

Susan looks at Confucius Institutes (from her days earlier this year interning in NYC), particularly the one at Pace University, and realizes the U.S. students there are learning more about Peking Opera, silk, calligraphy and classical poetry than she knows, as a devoted English student. She determines, then, to rediscover her own culture.


Laura shows us why Christianity, despite the hype and worry, won’t catch on in China. We see her quit, after too much uncomfortable touchie-feelie hugging and what feels like too much fake saying “I love you.”

Cynthia shows us a migrant laborer who founded a hotline to help others, a well-drawn bio piece about a modern-day hero.

Susan Yu takes us inside student union election politics – a microcosm for Party politics, and urges change towards a more truly democratic process.

In a

Susan Yu

nother great piece, we see how Chinese senior citizens, displaced from the center and their old communities by Beijing’s rampant, outward, horizontal growth pattern, are now being accused of clogging up mass transit when they travel back to their favorite old spots at rush hour.


And Guanlin tells the story of life as a Beijing public toilet cleaner who actually lives inside a stall, with his wife and grandchild.

Liya wrote about Beijing’s oldest foreign-owned small business, run by China’s original British hipster.

Spring’s Crop of Students

I’ve got 50 eccentric, fascinating grad students this term.

From their self-intros:

“When I was a girl, I was a little shy and afraid of talking to strangers. My grandfather, who is blind, helped me a lot about how to listen, how to know what others are thinking about through their words. Although he couldn’t see me, we could use language to change our throughts and I got useful knowledge from him that I had never heard before. Enlightened by my grandpa, I know language is an important tool to contact with others.”


“I remember each evening when a screenplay was about to play, people from my hometown would crowd in front of the TV set–the only one owned by the town, to get one moment of relief from the heavy daytime labour, or to kill the monotonous unfeeling night. I was determined then to become a TV journalist one day.”


“My major in college was Korean and I stayed in Korea for half a year. Last semester, I was an exchange student in Salzburg, Austria. All these experiences make me more open-minded and vigorous. Although due to laziness I’m not a very sufficient player, I learned piano from the age of 5 and I enjoy it very much.”


“I recently finished 2 months in Sri Lanka where I taught English. The place was so secluded I could see wild peacocks…I was borh in Guanzhou, a port city in the South of China. Both my parents are civil servants. My father was upright and strong, my mother is caring and tiny. I have been a tour guide in the Summer Palace, a Beijing Olympic volunteer and a copy girl in the state media. I think I could do better, but I never regret anything I did.”


“My father is a police officer. He solved many criminal cases, including murders. I like listening to him telling me thrilling and exciting stories about how to find suspects by clues. I know what he and his colleagues did was very dangerous and asked for great courage, so I am very proud of him…I had an interest in journalism partly because of what I got form my father, that is, faith in truth. I want to show truth to people.”


“I’m a typical after-1980s girl who is the only child in the family and got more love from parents. I was born in a beautiful coastal city in Shandong province. My father is a civil engineer and my mother is an accountant. Both of them are gentle, kind-hearted, considerate, hard-working, smart and with lots more virtues. Thanks to them, I learn what love is and how to undertake my responsibility. Yet under their protection, I may not be as independent as many of my contemporaries. But I am trying.”


“As I learned more about the media conditions in China, I began to doubt whether it is easy to be a good journalist. There are various restrictions on media reports. There are also threats which would affect the journalist’s integrity. Also, journalism may be the most toilsome occupation with relatively low income. But I know there is no easy job in the world. I still think the job of a journalist is so meaningful that it is worth my devotion.”


“I won a government scholarship and flew to L.A. to work as a correspondent for a Chinese wire service for three months. During that stay, I covered the Occupy L.A. movement, went to crime scenes, attended Hollywood film festivals, interviewed the President of Caltech. Besides that, I love Persian cats, Japanese manga and American R&B and jazz. My friends say I’m a control freak obsessed with being organized.”


“Studying journalism here, in and out of class, I’ve learned that maybe one ruling party is not so good for the country; I’ve been told that when disasters come, the [victim] numbers are largely cut by our government-controlled press; I’ve realized that many ordinary people like me are facing unfair treatment, waiting for someone to report it to the public. For all these things, I’m glad I chose the journalism course.”


“My family is not a one-child family as commonly exists. I have two sisters…My parents were allowed to have another baby when their first [twins] were girls. I am happy to have companions during my growth. My parents were busy working very hard to support the big family and often got home late when we were young. My sisters and I learned to cook for them, although the food didn’t taste as good as we expected it to.”


“I am good at badmitton, but watching horrible movies is my favourite. It’s not that I like to scare people, but that I can scream out loudly to ease mental stress when I am scared. I also like soft music and I am a big fan of Leonardo DeCaprio. His selfless love for Rose in Titanic moves me to tears every time I see it.”


“I used to hate English, because it played a linguistically and culturally hegemonic role in the world. I decided to enroll in this programme because the university gave me no alternative.”


“My parents’ small business doesn’t yield much. So to ease their burden, I have managed to live on my own since my junior year in college. …My plan A is to be a full-time journalist, because providing credible information to people and exposing social injustice would make my life meaningful. Plan B is to take another profession that permits me to live a decent life, and to be a citizen journalist at the same time.”


“My father is a butcher and he sells meat at the town’s market. My mother helps him. They are also farmers. They usually go to the fields at afternoon when father gets back from the market. But when it is busy time, father puts business aside because farm work waits for no man. During the harvest time, if the crops are still in the fields when the weather goes bad, there will be great loss. ..Last fall I worked as an intern reporter in Global Times. With the coaching of my mentor, I learned to finish a report. It was a hard time and I often stayed late at evening but I felt quite satisfied and encouraged when reading my report with the byline in newspaper the next day.”


“Like most people of my age from less-developed areas, my childhood was kind of dull. Looking back I have a picture in my mind: a little girl is doing her homework. I read few books other than textbooks Fortunately, I showed a little bit of talent in painting….I love journalism [for making] my life more colorful. I have developed interests in photography, politics and economics. Journalism is a kaleidoscope.”


“In a magazine affiliated to Xinhua News Agency, my work was real and professional. Every month, I pitched and wrote articles by myself. I learned to be novel in idea and style. We have many taboo topics in Chinese media so I tried to avoid political issues. It is delightful that we can write anything we want without censorship in this class.”


“I have a love-hate feeling for my homeland China. I love it because it is developing and young generation like us have a lot of opportunities to achieve our goals and a better life; I hate it because it is still developing and ridden with problems like soaring housing prices, food safety, pollution. As a journalist-to-be I hope to read and think more on these issues and write articles that enlighten others.”

My Students Visit the AP

Conference room, Associated Press Beijing Bureau

My journalism students sat under the AP’s iconic photo of Nixon at the Great Wall today while, for two straight hours, News Editor Scott McDonald, an amazing Canadian guy here 5 years this time (Sri Lanka, Pakistan, all over) explained the challenges of getting the story in China when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs controls movement, sources are uncomfortable speaking, occasionally media gets rounded up, and the rules sometimes shift unannounced. And the people best able to get the story — locally hired reporters who understand China and speak several dialects — are legally barred from working as journalists for foreign companies.

For their part, the students challenged him, contending that Western media engages consciously in China-bashing to sell papers, that protecting China is vital while it plays catch-up on the world stage, and that the U.S. government also exerts control and frequently lies.

McDonald himself raised and explored the complexities. Along with questionable overseas advocacy groups putting out information on China, there are now countless online/amateur Twittering sources to sort through, and the truth (did police open fire in Lhasa on a “riot” or “a peaceful demonstration”?) is very hard to verify on deadline. There are budget constraints, especially after a big year (Egypt, Libya). And space constraints: How can you explain China-Taiwan in one sentence? And without the native insight a Chinese reporter could bring, even the best, bilingual international reporters who majored in Chinese studies can miss sublteties.

He hardly took a breath in two hours of nonstop, high-speed, spot-on, articulate chat.

“We try to be honest. We try to be fair… We try to get eyewitnesses on the ground.”

Long live the newsman.