Five journalism trends to watch in Asia

CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout interviews Jeff Widener, photographer of “Tank Man,” at N3Con on June 7, 2013. (Photo by Sharon Pian Chan)
CNN’s Kristie Lu Stout interviews Jeff Widener, photographer of “Tank Man,” at N3Con on June 7, 2013. (Photo by Sharon Pian Chan)

Journalists from all over Asia converged in Hong Kong for AAJA Asia’s media conference New.Now.Next this past weekend. I co-led a session on “How to Land a Job in a Digital Age” and learned even more from the other sessions. Here are five journalism trends to watch from Asia.

1. The media industry is growing. From infant to mature media companies, the news industry in Asia is thriving. The News Lens, a Taiwanese start-up, has gained more than 3 million monthly unique visitors since launching in August 2013. Co-founder Joey Chung, a former manager for Sanrio, talked about the company’s success, which is built on providing fair and independent coverage. The social media news site targets readers who are mobile first. Self-funded for the first few months, the site has now attracted high-profile investors Marcus Brauchli, former Washington Post editor, and Sasa Vucinic. Check out a TechCrunch story about The News Lens.

The Wall Street Journal Asia no longer thinks about just what the U.S. reader wants to know about Asia, but what multiple audiences want to know about Asia. That includes publishing news sites in different languages, real-time blogs and the enterprise stories the Journal is known for. Paul Beckett, WSJ Asia editor, said his goal was to build a “very deep vertical.” For more, check out Jim Romenesko’s write-up of a speech Beckett gave in April.

Also, keep an eye on the many digital-only blogs started in people’s living rooms that have gained a loyal following, such as Shanghaiist, Coconuts TV and newcomers like Hong Wrong. (And these are just the blogs that serve English-speaking expats.) You must watch this Coconuts video on Thai men who embrace Mexican gangster culture.

2. The importance of mobile. Alan Soon, managing editor for Yahoo! Southeast Asia, said in countries like India and Indonesia, it’s no longer “mobile first.” It’s “mobile only.” “It’s no longer the medium is the message, it’s the distribution is the message.” This has major implications for what stories get published and how a story is told, Soon said.

3. Innovative storytelling. “Kowloon Walled City” by the Wall Street Journal explored the history of a neighborhood in video and interactive graphics. This is one of the most-viewed videos ever published by And even though it took the team six months to produce, the newsroom can now build a similar project in a week. Kowloon Wall City is a strong reminder that some of the most innovative online storytelling is being done in Asia.

4. The story that never ends: Malaysia Airline’s missing plane MH 370. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, said WSJ Asia Digital Editor Adam Najburg, you learn you haven’t seen it all.

“The media consuming people of earth” are really accustomed to endings to stories, said Ted Anthony, Asia-Pacific news director for the Associated Press. Not all news ends in a distinct fashion, Anthony said. Still, there is much “quiet pain” going on in different places, Anthony said.

5. Press freedom. The most powerful moment of the conference was when a former Ming Pao editor who was critically injured in a stabbing attack appeared in an exclusive video interview. Lau is just learning how to walk again.

Steve Herman, based in Bangkok for Voice of America, said there are soldiers in Thai newsrooms after the military coup. Bloomberg decided to spike controversial stories about China. Michael Forsythe, who left Bloomberg after the incident to join the New York Times, exhorted Hong Kong media to report stories that hold the Chinese government accountable. (Here is the back story in The New York Times.)

That all tied back to the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests on June 4. Jeff Widener, the photographer who captured the famous image of a man confronting a line of tanks, talked about the experience of covering the event. I have to confess feeling some Tiananmen coverage fatigue before I got to Hong Kong (having read multiple stories and edited an op-ed about the topic before I got to Hong Kong) but after hearing Widener talk, I felt like a middle school student all over again riveted by TV news stories in 1989.

Thank you to the AAJA Asia and Hong Kong University’s Journalism & Media Studies Center for another excellent gathering. If you want to learn more, check out, which covered the event live in text, photo and video.

Posted by Sharon Pian Chan. Sharon is the associate opinions editor / digital at The Seattle Times . Follow her on Twitter @sharonpianchan.

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