September 24th, 2010
The question I was most often asked by outsiders during my term as head of journalism at NTU’s Wee Kim Wee School was, how exactly do we educate our students.
The curiosity is understandable, since Singapore’s press system lies in a grey area in between liberal democratic and totalitarian extremes. Journalists here enjoy neither American-style First Amendment freedoms nor the certitude of Communist Party propaganda department directives. There is no textbook for Singapore-style journalism.
My colleagues and I have tried to draw on global norms and best practices, adapting them to local context. Our approach is mostly pragmatic and atheoretical: since our students want jobs in the media, we are guided mainly by our understanding of what the industry wants to see in rookie journalists.
Last year, however, I accepted a suggestion to set out more systematically my thoughts on journalism education. This was an intellectually challenging task, but also a welcome one. After all, journalism education – like journalism itself – should be subject to the kind of public accountability that the press asks of other institutions. Articulating our principles on educating journalists is a way to engage colleagues and other stakeholders in a conversation about what we should teach and why.
For the same reason, I’m now making this paper available to readers of Journalism.SG.