News Literacy looks to China for partnership

At the invitation of Prof Zhang Kai of the Communication University of China (CUC), Dean Howard Schneider and Richard Hornik traveled to China to participate in a 2-day forum on News Literacy at CUC. This forum was just the most recent step in a year-long effort to bring the Stony Brook model for teaching News Literacy to Mainland China. In October 2012, Hornik had visited Prof Zhang at CUC and she subsequently attended a workshop on News Literacy at the University of Hong Kong and then spent 9 days at Stony Brook in April 2013 observing the teaching of the course.

Howard Schneider lectures about News Literacy during his trip to China.

Howard Schneider lectures about News Literacy during his trip to China.

The forum was attended by 14 faculty members from CUC and 6 other Chinese universities. In addition, roughly 30 graduate students and doctoral candidates from several CUC faculties also attended. On day one, Dean Schneider delivered an overview of the origins of the course, the pedagogy behind it and the results thus far. Hornik followed with a summary of the key concepts of the course. Both presentations elicited lively discussions that demonstrated both a genuine interest in the subject matter but also a realistic appraisal of the difficulties of transferring such a course to a Chinese academic setting. Of particular interest were the comments of Prof She Shaomin of Xiamen University who attended the Stony Brook News Literacy Summer Institute at the U of Hong Kong last summer. Prof She, who introduced News Literacy this semester, described the difficulty in developing the timely examples necessary to keep her students engaged. She also noted the skepticism of her students about the possibility of finding reliable information.

Still, the overall enthusiasm of the participants for the material was encouraging as were some of the suggestions for future steps. Perhaps most interesting was the idea of developing News Literacy materials to aid in the teaching of English at the university level in China. In addition, the presence of international graduate students at the forum led to the possibility of expanding the scope of our overseas partnerships to Africa. Kenneth Agutamba of Uganda expressed interest in attending a News Literacy Summer Institute course after completing his Masters in International Communications at CUC in 2014 and launching the curriculum in East Africa.

Dean Schneider also delivered a lecture to over 100 journalism students on the challenges of training American journalists for the challenges of the 21st century. The lecture elicited a lively discussion from the students, again with what seemed to be a clear understanding of the challenges facing Chinese journalists today.

During the visit, Schneider and Hornik also conducted discussions with CUC faculty and administrators about future cooperation between the two schools. In addition to continued efforts to develop news literacy curricula for China, the two sides agreed in principle to student exchanges and to explore the possibility of joint faculty research projects.

In Hong Kong, Schneider and Hornik visited the University of Hong Kong and Baptist University. Masato Kajimoto has been teaching news literacy at HKU for the past year, adopting most of the major elements to a course on The Principles of Journalism. In the fall semester that course attracted 130 students, most of whom were taking it as an elective. He has also launched several initiatives to spread news literacy into Hong Kong high schools and to other universities. He made the introduction to the Dean of the School of Communication at Baptist U. Again, several areas of cooperation were explored including joint reporting projects by students and joint research projects by faculty.