Navigating future journalists through Network Journalism

By Rafiqi Yusoff

KUALA LUMPUR, 14 December 2021: Having both passion in writing and practical experiences in media establishments are a good combination to produce journalists for network journalism in the face of current challenges of the digital technology, a webinar was told yesterday.

This view was shared by the panelists, Dexter Lin Tim Weng, Hakim Mahari, and Fahmi Aziz in the webinar for the pre-event 1 of 2021 Journalism e-Colloquium titled “Navigating Through Network Journalism”. 

The first speaker, Dexter Lin, a student representative of Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA), believed that with the emergence of the internet, over time students of Media and Journalism no longer have a choice but need to be ready for the changes in network journalism.

“This is especially so for future generations of journalists.” 

Hakim Mahari, the student managing editor of IIUMToday, shared that IIUMToday is the avenue to give exposure to students on journalism world, apart from classroom experience whereby students only learn about theoretical aspects of journalism knowledge.

According to Hakim, IIUMToday serves as a platform for students to actually practice journalism skills in terms of news reporting and news writing as students cover campus events, filing stories, do the necessary editing and publish their news items.

He highlighted the importance of network journalism especially in the era of social media, whereby various issues had emerged that can be debated and discussed nationally or within the campus itself. 

Therefore, network journalism helps journalism students to find reliable information and sources towards the issues based on the application of theoretical learning and knowledge acquired in the classroom.  

“A journalist from IIUMToday must know whether the information conveyed has been verified by applying the journalism knowledge in class by doing the ‘crowdsourcing’ where information and sources that come from various parties are compiled to help students examine the issues that they should be aware of, whether outside or inside the campus,” Hakim said.

He stated that the result of network journalism especially in IIUMToday helps bring mutual benefits between the journalists and also the students to find the topic that can be further elaborated. 

However, Fahmi Aziz, the Vice President II of Journalism Society, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) believed that network journalism has been integrated into UiTM journalism syllabus right from the get-go. 

Sharing his experience of learning about news writing and reporting, he was exposed to the ways of acquiring pieces of information and methods such as media match-making, up-down principles, and even anonymous sources have indirectly plunged him into network journalism. 

Fahmi also emphasised that the module of network journalism does help in preparing student journalists to face the winding roads in network journalism when they get a place in the industry. 

Unfortunately during the COVID-19 period, students cannot go out to find the truth about their story such as conducting interviews. Hence, they utilised the sources from the internet and social media in garnering as much information as they possibly could. 

“Since the current climate of COVID-19 is uncertain, we have managed to squeeze and adapt with online learning. Taking this into account, journalism students should have no problem engaging with network journalism once they graduate,” Fahmi remarked. 

Despite that, they both shared their views and experiences in dealing with the challenges that are commonly faced by students of media and journalism. 

According to Dexter, as an international journalism student, the main challenge for him is the different time zones because he has to set up the interview and talk with people from all over the globe. 

“It is a challenge for me because I have to stay up until late night or even wake up early in the morning simply to reply to emails and talk to people, therefore my working time gets extended.”

However, he believed that journalism students have to adapt to their working environment really fast and it is also important for them to know and maintain their work-life balance. 

Hakim also shared his view on the challenges faced during working with IIUMToday where he stated that journalists have to deal with censorship of their writing. This is because journalists do not freely publish anything but they have to be more careful by following a certain set of guidelines and rules. 

“Our news portal is under the Department of Communication. So, we are not free to publish anything and there must be a content filter that fits with university expectations that would not tarnish the good name of the university itself.”

According to Hakim, it might be a barrier for journalists to write and publish anything they wish, contradicting the in-class knowledge they have learned regarding the freedom of the media.

And to be fair, he believed that it is to teach the journalists to be disciplined and to be ethical in terms of news writing. 

He further shared that when IIUMToday was shifted to online newsroom after COVID-19 hit us, it has given a bleak outcome in ensuring journalists give their best in being responsible although the news training is provided every semester to enhance their skills.

Hakim also stressed that before the pandemic, IIUMToday journalists covered events physically inside and outside the campus and that indirectly gave them hands-on experience as a student journalist. 

Meanwhile, after the pandemic, they just cover the events online and it is like doing the summary for assignments. Therefore, it does not give a vibe of a journalist and does not create a good exposure of journalism. 

“We do provide them with in-house training, but we would not know whether they will adapt to the information and learning because the effectiveness to produce good journalists is significant and that is my concern,” said Hakim. 

He further stated that journalism students should be able to improve themselves despite having online classes and training because online journalism is what they should be adapting with. 

Other than that, Fahmi Aziz added that student journalists are often discredited by other people when they offer requests for interviews because they might perceive student journalists as unimportant as compared to those from news organisations.

“And the other challenge faced is the frequent writer’s block as there are journalism students who are still adapting with producing stories or news items in fast speed and a high turnaround rate,” Fahmi further remarked. 

This two-hour webinar was moderated by Iman Muttaqin, a UiTM journalism student and was conducted live on Cisco Webex on Monday (13 December). 

Organised by final year journalism students from Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM), the event was held in collaboration with strategic media partners namely Al Jazeera, DBilique and Hab Media Kreatif dan Teknologi (Creative Media and Technology Hub), UiTM.*** 

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