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Friday, January 29, 2016, 11:18

Baptist University played a unique role in journalism’s progress

By Peter Liang

Hong Kong Baptist University will stage a big show this Saturday, Jan 30, to celebrate its 60th anniversary. HKBU is not the most prestigious institution of higher learning in Hong Kong, nor is it the oldest. But it is widely credited and revered for revolutionizing the journalism profession and helping to establish Hong Kong as the region’s premier information center.

Many well-known personalities in the media, past and present, are alumni of the university’s famous journalism school. This was the first and only such institution in Hong Kong for many years after it was founded in the 1960s.

At that time, journalism as a profession was practically non-existent. Indeed, editors and reporters were supposed to solicit advertising business for their employers and subsidize their own incomes with lai see handouts in return for favorable stories. The media was mired in corrupt practices and most of the stories in the papers were fabricated by imaginative editors based on scanty facts collected by business-minded reporters.

During this dark age of journalism, the HKBU’s journalism school was born. It extolled an entirely different culture and instilled in its students not only the skills of the trade but, more importantly, a code of ethics in keeping with the best practices in the US and UK.

Young graduates confident of their knowledge and sense of mission began to fill the newsrooms in various newspapers and broadcast stations. The changes they brought to the industry were anything but subtle.

At one time, HKBU graduates dominated the news reporting at the two competing television stations. The quality of the news they produced was nothing short of an eye-opener for the hundreds of thousands of viewers. More gradually, the newspapers had to follow the trend by hiring HKBU graduates or risk being ignored by their readers.

Of course, the establishment of the Independent Commission Against Corruption in the mid-1970s helped clean up, among other things, the media industry. But the efforts of the pioneers at HKBU in promoting professional journalism in Hong Kong should be recognized.

In doing so, they and the many journalists they trained have contributed to making Hong Kong an information center widely seen to be important to the city’s development in finance and trade.

 
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