Global business journalism program offers experience covering China's economy

by Sam Berkhead
Oct 30, 2018 in Journalism Basics

Over the last few decades, China has ranked among the fastest-growing economies in the world. Demand for journalists who can adeptly cover China’s thriving, diverse markets has risen at a similar pace.

That’s why Tsinghua University first introduced a master of arts in global business journalism (GBJ) in 2007. The two-year, full-time program in Beijing is China’s only English-language master’s program in this field.

Each year, about 20 students — half international, half from China — enroll in the program. They learn from award-winning faculty who have previously worked for The New York Times and Bloomberg, as well as leading Chinese scholars.

Simone Martin, a second-year student from Italy, said he chose the program as a way to complement both his bachelor’s degree in journalism and his interest in China’s economy.

“You learn a lot about the business world, companies’ business strategies, the stock market, micro- and macroeconomics, etc.,” said Martin, who produced a five-minute mini-documentary on the GBJ program for his documentary news course. “On the other side, you also learn basic journalism concepts such as newswriting, TV, multimedia and others.”

Viktória Fričová, a second-year student from Slovakia, echoed Martin’s thoughts, saying she chose the program for its unique combination of journalism and business with a global focus. In addition to a required course on intercultural communication, GBJ students benefit from interacting with faculty and peers from around the globe on a daily basis.

“I love the idea that our class consists of people from 16 different countries,” Fričová said. “It is a perfect training on cultural understanding.”

For Sarah Talaat, a first-year GBJ student from the U.S., the GBJ program was a good way to gain more business journalism experience before applying to jobs.

“I was really interested in business journalism, but I didn’t feel that I was really ready to take on a job in that field, so I thought I could use a little more experience,” she said. “I thought it would be so great to live in China and to understand the world’s second-biggest economy from living in that country.”

Tsinghua’s program has 10 Bloomberg terminals, the largest university installation of its kind in the world. With these terminals, GBJ students get access to up-to-the-minute financial and economic information used by business professionals worldwide.

“We use that pretty frequently, and it’s a great tool because we have literally to-the-minute, to-the-second information about what’s going on in the world economy,” said Talaat. “It’s really useful for fleshing out a lot of our stories, but also for getting a good understanding of some of the more basic concepts of the economy and seeing how they apply in the real world.”

Prospective students thinking about applying shouldn’t be discouraged if they don’t feel they fit the bill of the “traditional” business journalist, Talaat explained.

“In your application, be really clear about why you want to do this,” she said. “Don’t be afraid to share what your passions are that will help you succeed in this program. The professors are really good about letting your talents that are different than just journalism skills come into play and encouraging you to use those. I think people who may not consider themselves traditional or traditionally interested in business journalism can still do really well and have a fulfilling experience.”

While a background in business or economics is helpful, it isn’t required to do well in the GBJ program, Fričová said. She said hopeful GBJ students can best improve their candidacy by conveying what they want to get out of the program during the interview process.

“You are going to go through an interview via a phone or Skype call,” Fričová said. “I would suggest that applicants think thoroughly about why they are interested in the program, what they think they can get out of it and what they as individuals can bring into it.”

For students coming from Western countries, especially, living in China may present a culture shock — but Martin said it’s better to think of it as an opportunity to learn and grow.

“Come to China with an open mentality to explore many new things and to understand a totally different culture and business/society reality,” he said. “Living in China for two years while studying in this master’s program in one of the best universities in the country will eventually open many doors and will enrich any background — not only academically, but also interculturally.”

Find more information about the Global Business Journalism program at Tsinghua University here. The deadline to apply is March 20.

Main image CC-licensed by Flickr via Richard.