Ethical modern-day journalism

In the day and age of supposed “fake news” and independently-Journalismproduced content online, higher education plays an important role in helping us understand what responsible and ethical modern-day journalism can and should be.

A case can be made for the return of journalism as a valid and much needed area of study and work that is relevant today and in the future. And yet, despite its importance journalism studies remains a little under the radar for prospective students and parents as a higher education option in Malaysia.

As a person who took the path less travelled and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts (Social Sciences) from Monash University, I majored in Journalism and Writing. These two fields of study taught me that the way people receive and understand important news items largely depends on how they are produced, written and are eventually published.

In the first year of study, I was exposed to the practical aspects of Journalism, and learned how to write and publish news using different media platforms such as radio, television and the internet. To do this, I also had to learn how to use various recording equipment and editing software. 

The School of Arts and Social Sciences, provided me with these resources which allowed me to acquire insight into key broadcasting industries, and I learned to work in distinct reporting scenarios that included studio set-ups, and live updating of news online.

My second year of study gave me awareness of and understanding of global news production that included business news, a unique form journalism that I personally found difficult due to lack of interest but subsequently learned to enjoy. 

Unlike hard news, these areas have fewer demands for immediacy and required ongoing research of global and local businesses. For example, I developed a strong understanding of the many business concepts referred to such as when companies are bought over, getting important numbers and statistics correct, and correctly citing my sources. I also learned to interpret company and stakeholder reports. Checking of facts, confirming them through external news sources proved to be important and part of the research process that took a lot of patience, and practice.

When year three came around, the topics focused much more on world events. The assignments became increasingly fun. Key journalism skills such as editing and producing stories returned to the spotlight. I was tasked to keep up with the different news standards around the world. Understanding those nuances proved to be challenging.

World events occur at great speeds, and all at the same time. It was fascinating to learn how those events linked in different ways and impacted one another. An interesting example, is that my course mates and I were required to present a report on how the tightening of freedom of news laws in Russia affected how news content was produced both inside and outside of the country, and how other nations responded this change.

Another one of the more memorable assignment tasks required me to create audio stories using audio blocks and sound clips found on the internet. Through this simple audio editing task, I managed to produce a corny western horror audio piece consisting of stampedes, cowboy whoops, beastly growls and screams.

Being creative 24/7 can be mentally exhausting, but the opportunities before me has kept me busy. Out of my writing portfolio, I managed to get a short story published in a local anthology titled Champion Fellas.

Having had the ambition of becoming a creative writer, I made the decision to undertake Journalism studies at Monash Malaysia in order to develop my writing and media production skills. Now that I have graduated, those skills that I have acquired have proven to be relevant. Within a year of being a full-time working adult, I found myself writing freelance, delving into travel writing and taking up projects requiring videography work. 

The critical research skills that I have acquired in my Bachelor degree have taught me to appreciate the intricacies of news production in fast evolving media landscapes. I feel much more prepared to differentiate fake news and real news. More importantly, I know how to produce the latter in a responsible and ethical fashion.

Sarah Anne Cui Ying Lee is an alumna who majored in journalism and writing at the School of Arts and Social Sciences, Monash University Malaysia.