N3 Magazine issue 1

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N3Con 2016 Journalism in the Mobile Age The official magazine for


May 27-29, 2016 Issue 1

The cyberfight for media freedom Mobile technology is helping the repressed find a voice. But that doesn't make journalists freer

Ron Brown, the career whisperer VR: Journalism's new frontier While old media dies, startups rise to the challenge Investigating the Panama Papers

N3Con 2016 Schedule Friday, May 27 9:00 - 11:30 a.m. 11:30 - 1:00 p.m. 1:00 - 2:00 p.m. 2:00 - 2:15 p.m. 2:15 - 3:15 p.m. 3:15 - 3:30 p.m. 3:30 - 4:30 p.m. 4:30 - 4:45 p.m. 4:45 - 5:45 p.m. 6:00 - 6:30 p.m. 6:30 - 9:00 p.m.

Newsroom Tours (leave from Seoul CCEI) Registration (Seoul CCEI) Plenary: Journalism in the Age of AI (Conference Hall) 15-minute break Panel: Love Them or Hate Them? News Platforms in a Journalist’s World (Conference Hall) Panel: Follow the Money: Business Stories You Should Be Doing Now (Innovation Room) 15-minute break Panel: Live-streaming the News (Conference Hall) Workshop: Storytelling with Data (Innovation Room) 15-minute break Lightning Talks (Conference Room) Closing VIP Reception, Invitation Only (Bloomberg Seoul headquarters)

Saturday, May 28 8:30 - 9:00 a.m. Registration (D.Camp) 8:30 - 9:30 a.m. Documentary Screening (6th floor, D.Camp Meeting Room AB) 9:00 - 9:30 a.m. Coffee and Pastries (6th floor, D.Camp outdoor deck) 9:30 - 10:30 a.m. Plenary: Virtual Reality in the Newsroom (6th floor, Multipurpose Hall) 10:30 - 10:45 a.m. 15-minute break 10:45 - 12:00 p.m. Panel: Startups Making Money in the News Business (6th floor, Multipurpose Hall) Panel: Investigating the Panama Papers (4th floor, Seminar Room) Workshop: Virtual Reality with Google (6th floor, Meeting Room AB) 12:00 - 1:00 p.m. LUNCH (6th floor, D.Camp outdoor deck) Resume Doctor (6th floor, Meeting Room AB for broadcast and 4th floor Seminar Room for print) 12:30 - 1:00 p.m. Open Stage with Yigal Erlich (6th floor, Multipurpose Hall) 1:00 - 1:30 p.m. Small raffle (6th floor, Multipurpose Hall) 1:30 - 2:30 p.m. Plenary: Censorship and the People’s Right to Know (6th floor, Multipurpose Hall) 2:30 - 2:45 p.m. 15-minute break 2:45 - 3:45 p.m. Panel: Money Behind Content: Fighting for the Right Balance (6th floor, Multipurpose Hall) Workshop: How to Publish a Book (4th floor, Seminar Room) Workshop: TV Interviews and Best Practices (6th floor, Meeting Room AB) 3:45 - 4:00 p.m. 15-minute break 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. Panel: Crisis Reporting and the Scoop: How to Prepare for Breaking News (6th floor, Multipurpose Hall) Workshop: 10-Minute K-beauty Tips with a YouTube Star (4th floor, Seminar Room) Workshop: Working Your Own PR: Pitching to the Media (6th floor, Meeting Room AB) Workshop: Mobile Journalism (4th floor, Meeting Room) 5:00 - 5:15 p.m. 15-minute break 5:15 - 6:00 p.m. Closing and raffle (6th floor, Multipurpose Hall) 7:00 - 10:00 p.m. Gala Dinner (Ciel Garden, Ramada Seoul Gangnam)

Sunday, May 29 9:00 - 5:00 p.m. 9:30 - 2:00 p.m.


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Workshop: Power Leadership Training with Ron Brown (4th floor, D.Camp Seminar Room) Tour: Seoul Fortress Tour (Departs from Ramada Hotel, Seoul lobby)

The front seats of history W

e are exactly where we want to be: in the front seats of history. And there has never been a time when it’s been this important to make sure we are doing our jobs right. As journalists, we have the luxury of multiple platforms to broadcast and disseminate information. And yet, it is also one of the greatest challenges of our profession. AAJA Asia’s sixth annual New. Now. Next Media Conference (#N3Con) 2016 comes together as China’s economy slows and tightens its grip on social media, as the Panama Papers expose the shady financial dealings of world leaders and as we witness the rise of the mobile age. Over the course of this conference, 300 journalists from across the region and the U.S. will meet to collaborate, network and innovate on how to do our jobs better. It’s a professional obligation. I remember my first visit to Myanmar a few years ago, participating as a speaker at the East-West Center’s International Media Conference, just as the country was opening up to the world and shaking off its hermit kingdom status. As foreign journalists there discussed the challenges of the free press, we also had an opportunity to venture out into a country that did without for so long. I was sitting on a bus next to a young man who spoke of his hopes for his country and himself. He was a young programmer who saw an opportunity to create websites for local Burmese businesses — opportunity and change after a time of persecution and strife. To him and his friends, technology was at the heart of the incredible transformation happening to his people. During those five dark decades of Myanmar’s military dictatorship, few people had fixed landlines, let alone mobile phones. Today, you can buy a basic SIM card for just K1,500 — or 20 U.S. cents — which allows the average Burmese to have a mobile phone. Imagine the pace of that extraordinary change: from a totalitarian grip on information, banned books and other media, to owning a smartphone that serves as an entry to the World Wide Web. Anything you want to know, it’s there. Anything you want to say, there’s a platform. True freedom. The young man on the bus couldn’t believe that there were journalists like us in his country, and that now he, too, had choices. And we kept in touch — via email, of course. Today, there are many parts of Asia where journalism remains a courageous act: from the journalists in the Maldives arrested for protesting the increasing attacks against the media and a proposed criminal defamation law to activists, politicians and journalists in Thailand who are arrested for questioning the military junta’s grip on the country waiting for those elusive elections to be scheduled, to those who have been detained in China for publicly challenging those in power.

But the rest of us who still can, we pick up the torch and cover those stories regardless. And thanks to our mobile age, information can be spread — at times far beyond the reach of those who seek to silence it. Technology has graced us with multiple platforms for global reach. It’s a powerful tool. And N3Con aims to help us use it to the best of our abilities. Welcome to AAJA Asia’s New. Now. Next Media Conference 2016.

Angie Lau, AAJA Asia chapter president

New. Now. Next Media Conference May 27-29, 2016 3

New. Now. Next is an annual media conference hosted by the Asian American Journalists Association's Asia chapter.

is brought to you by

N3Con 2016, held in Seoul, South Korea, is its sixth edition.

N3Con planning team Angie Lau, AAJA Asia chapter president Taehoon Lee, N3Con 2016 executive producer

Executive committee

Logistics committee

Social events committee

Oanh Ha, chair Eunji Kim Angie Lau Taehoon Lee Youkyung Lee Sean Lim

Brolley Genster, cochair Jihyoung Son, cochair James Hyams Taehoon Lee Elaine Ramirez Blessing Waung

Jungsoo Maeng, chair Taehoon Lee Youkyung Lee Elaine Ramirez Hailey Ren

Marketing committee

Programming committee

Sponsorship committee

Eunji Kim, cochair Carina Lee, cochair Zela Chin Arshiya Khullar Taehoon Lee Wendy Tang Eldes Tran Blessing Waung

Youkyung Lee, cochair Mike Raomanachai, cochair Oanh Ha Taehoon Lee Sean Lim Yuri Nagano Chelsea Phua Elaine Ramirez

Taehoon Lee, chair Billy Wong, AAJA Asia Google Digital Journalism Student Award chair Oanh Ha Angie Lau Carina Lee Youkyung Lee Sean Lim

N3Con 2016 venues


N3 Magazine Issue 1




The official magazine for the


media conference Editor-in-chief

Elaine Ramirez

Taehoon Lee Art director Gavin Huang Designers James Hyams

Sponsorship director

Georgia Scott Writers Dave Hazzan Channy Lee Jihyoung Son

Lauren Hardie Nayoung Kang Jaime Stief Blessing Waung Editorial support Kyle Erwin Arjun Giri Oanh Ha Carina Lee Jungsoo Maeng Hiromi Tanoue Wendy Tang Billy Wong Copy editors

Connect AAJA Asia

aajaasia@gmail.com aaja.org/chapters/asia fb.com/aajaasia @aajaasia


n3con.com fb.com/n3conference

Issue 1 The cyberfight for media freedom. Cover image by Gavin Huang.

N3Con 2016


2 Conference schedule 4 Map of venues 3 President’s letter Thanks to the mobile age, information can be spread — at times far beyond the reach of those who seek to silence it.

N3 Magazine

8 New.Now.Next 2016: Journalism in the Mobile Age In this mobile world, how will journalism – and journalists – evolve?

10 New Media startups and news platforms are creating new ways to monetize, distribute, create and aggregate content.

20 Workshops Get hands-on with virtual reality, mobile journalism and data-based storytelling.

12 Now Explore the balance between money and journalistic integrity, censorship issues in Asia, and methods for covering breaking news, business stories and data-based investigations.

22 Power Leadership Training Ron Brown helps journalists understand the language of leadership so they can communicate their best skills and ideas.

18 Next The future of journalism is exciting with the aid of quickly advancing technology such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and live-streaming.

cover story 24 The cyberfight for media freedom Technology is giving young democracies a powerful weapon in its fight for freedom of expression.

features 34 North Korea With inside sources dwindling, journalists develop their own tech to monitor the hermit kingdom. 36 Indonesia Millennial media outlets are paving the way for the future of Indonesia’s publishing. 37 Nepal In disaster-hit Nepal, radio stations connect with communities through social media. 38 India Mobile-first India has bred an emergence of mobile-oriented short news aggregators.


22 Events Enhance your conference experience with additional networking and career advice opportunities.

42 Robot journalism Will artificial intelligence in journalism save us, or replace us? 43 Facebook’s dominance In their role as content distributors, social media platforms are taking the control from media companies, and with it, their power to monetize. 44 Money matters Media integrity and trustworthiness are threatened when the line is blurred between paid and original content. 46 Journalistic roots Journalism has come a long way since the days of Linotype machines. But the fundamentals of ethics and source building remain the same.

30 Hong Kong As press freedom declines, Hong Kong Free Press is rising as the city-state’s voice of the people.

39 Japan “Fair” is a four-letter word in the Japanese media industry, thanks to the Abe administration’s threats on press freedom.

47 Smart productivity Here are some easy-to-use apps that can help any journalist become more productive.

32 South Korea Naver’s dominance as a news distributor has led to a dogfight of yellow journalism and clickbait media.

40 Thailand If newspapers have any future, it is at the hyperlocal level. But even this is under attack by the virtual world.

48 Digital Journalism Student Award In partnership with Google, AAJA Asia awards the most creative work that tells continuing stories and issues of how our society evolves in the physical and digital world.

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ocial media, smartphones and virtual reality platforms are changing the way journalism is being done these days. Taken to the extreme, will robots one day replace human journalists? What about practices of old-fashioned journalism, where reporters walk “beats” and knock on doors to seek out sources, instead of pinging requests on Twitter or sourcing from Facebook pages? In this digital and mobile world, how will journalism – and journalists – evolve? New. Now. Next 2016, the sixth annual conference presented by the Asian American Journalists Association’s Asia chapter, explores the theme “Journalism in the Mobile Age” and the implications of technological advancements on our trade.

“NEW” panels give the stage to media startups and news platforms that are creating new ways to monetize, distribute, create and aggregate content. “NOW” addresses the fundamental practices and ethics affecting journalism today, exploring the balance between money and journalistic integrity, censorship issues in Asia and methods for covering breaking news, business stories and data-based investigations. “NEXT” explores how journalism is enhanced by quickly advancing technology such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality and livestreaming. Meanwhile, the workshops allow you to get hands-on with virtual reality, mobile journalism and data-based storytelling. There are also nontech sessions for TV reporters, PR agents and aspiring book authors, as well as opportunities to focus on advancing your career.


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13 19 14 20




21 21

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Love Them or Hate Them? News Platforms in a Journalist’s World Panelists

Friday, May 27, 2:15-3:15 p.m. Open Stage, Seoul CCEI How have tech tools become major sources of news and why? Is original, user-generated more important than ever? Dominant platforms like Google and Twitter are making news consumption easier for consumers, cutting out traditional news outlets from their former roles. How are tech companies repositioning themselves as they become the gatekeepers of news? How can newsrooms coexist with tech companies and stay relevant in the new paradigm?


Strategic partner manager Google, South Korea

HYOUNSOOK LEE News and government partnership manager Twitter, South Korea


Senior reporter Mergermarket Group, Japan


Asia editor Storyful, Hong Kong/U.K.

Startups Making Money in the News Business Saturday, May 28, 10:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Multipurpose Hall, D.Camp


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Huffington Post and Buzzfeed have fared well on social media and digital platforms, inspiring a generation of newsroom journalists to venture into new media startups with alternative platforms and storytelling methods. The younger crop of writers are coming up with new business models and monetization models for journalism, such as crowdfunded journalism and content aggregation. But are these methods viable?

Lightning Talks Friday, May 27, 4:45-5:45 p.m.

N3Con 2016 introduces insights at lightning speed. From the art of news gathering to the top apps for journalists to how to reformat news for social engagement, panelists share their industry tips with highoctane presentations of up to five minutes.

Open Stage, Seoul CCEI



Freelance journalist, China

Mergermarket Group, Japan


Moderator OANH HA

University of Hawaii at Manoa, U.S.

Asia consumer news editor Bloomberg, Vietnam


Moderator ZELA CHIN Senior reporter and producer TVB Pearl, Hong Kong


CEO Newsbacker/The Korea Observer, South Korea

JAMES P. ONG Editorial director Coconuts Media, Singapore

FARLAND CHANG KYUNGYOUNG CHOI Executive producer WorldBizWatch, China

Senior editor Korea Center for Investigative Journalism, South Korea

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Censorship and the People’s Right to Know It was only in the late 20th century that some Asian countries began to shift from military dictatorships and authoritarian governments to elections and representative governance systems. The political transition may have democratized national laws and brought along improvements in government accountability, but press freedom remains a foreign concept in many Asian countries. Concerns persist surrounding rights to access information and the safety of journalists who carry out that mission. Across Asia, outspoken bloggers are prosecuted, while reporters and their outlets face consequences after critical coverage of authority figures emerges. Governments can

Saturday, May 28, 1:30-2:30 p.m.

Multipurpose Hall, D.Camp

silence local media by licensing who is allowed to publish. But the internet has changed the game for state censorship. Antiestablishment sentiments and the infinite number of ways to access public platforms have rendered the attempt of complete media control almost futile. This newfound technological democracy challenges even the infamous Great Firewall of China. Globalization increasingly undermines the disregard for people’s right to know. Censorship is now a more difficult task for the state. From authoritarian governments in China and Vietnam to restrictive media cultures in Japan and Thailand, learn how reporters navigate the challenge of informing the public without landing in jail.


Moderator OANH HA

Asia consumer news editor Bloomberg, Vietnam

CHING-CHING NI Chinese website editor-in-chief International New York Times, China


STEVE HERMAN Southeast Asia bureau chief Voice of America, Thailand

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BRIAN FOWLER Managing editor Bloomberg, Japan


Media professor Pusan National University, South Korea

Crisis Reporting and the Scoop: How to Prepare for Breaking News Saturday, May 28, 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Multipurpose Hall, D.Camp

As the Sewol ferry disaster unfolded in South Korea in April 2014, news reports were plagued by misinformation that set a tone of confusion and anger against the government and its leaders for the tragedy that left more than 300 dead at sea. As a result, media outlets faced major criticism for their failure to fact-check information at such a critical time. High accuracy, thoroughness and speed are crucial for breaking news reporting. Even in moments of crisis, journalists must break away from the pack, uncover scoops on deadline and be first without getting it wrong, all while dealing with the emotional toll of the tragedy itself. Veteran journalists will discuss their experiences covering breaking news, managing objectivity during tragedy and getting unique stories that add depth.




Anchor Bloomberg TV, Hong Kong


Reporter Bloomberg, South Korea

CHONGAE LEE Deputy editor SBS, South Korea


Asia bureau editor-in-chief New York Times, Hong Kong

Open Stage with Yigal Erlich To cope with a population influx after the fall of the Soviet Union, Israel’s flagging economy turned to a new growth engine: technology. Powered by heavy government and foreign investment, Israel has developed into a “startup nation” with high-tech industries fueling economic growth since 2000 by building a healthy ecosystem that is now benchmarked by Korea. Yozma Group founder and chairman Yigal Erlich, one of Israel’s most prominent investors, is widely credited as the founding father of its venture capital industry. The Israeli investment company sees potential in Asia’s booming startup scene. It wants to foster local talents to have global mindsets so they can reach the U.S., European and Southeast Asian markets in particular. The Yozma Group formally opened its first Asian startup campus in Pangyo, South Korea, this year as a base camp for expansion into other Asian markets. Coupled with a special Q&A session, Erlich will speak about Asia’s tech landscape, emerging mobile and media innovations, and how it can all be applied to media and journalism.


Founder, chairman and managing partner The Yozma Group, Israel

Saturday, May 28, 12:30-1:00 p.m. Multipurpose Hall, D.Camp

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Money Behind Content: Fighting for the Saturday, May 28, 2:45-3:45 p.m.

Multipurpose Hall, D.Camp

As hard as journalists fight for independence, there is no ignoring the influence and necessity of money in the news business. Media Today, a South Korean watchdog of media outlets and journalists that receive favors such as free trips, operates at the forefront of ethical standards and observes how media outlets rely on paid content. Managing editor Jeonghwan Lee will discuss paid content and evidence that the government pays news companies to publish stories favorable to them that carry a reporter’s byline without distinguishing between advertorials and journalistic content. Limited resources increase the pressure to get the job done fast while maintaining journalistic integrity. In such conditions, it’s easy to find people who crave exposure and get the job done, but the mission of being a voice for the voiceless means journalists should seek sources that truly represent their community, which takes time and effort. NBC producer Stella Kim argues that sources should never be promised money in the pursuit of unbiased truth. Sometimes subjects such as North Korean defectors are more willing to be interviewed on TV for more exposure — and hence, donations — but journalists cannot be sure that such sources are sensational or genuine. Kim avoids these sources in the interest of pursuing the most genuine and original stories. However, there are sometimes conditions in which paying the source would be the ethical thing to do, such as when interviews interrupt a person’s work opportunities or living situation, especially in the case of a financially vulnerable source. In such cases, compensation can be made after the interview but never promised beforehand. Meanwhile, the emerging trend of crowdfunded journalism has opened up the possibility of a new revenue source for media outlets, but it does not guarantee independent journalism. As the founders of crowdfunded media startups, Seungyoon Lee of Byline warns of the dangers of getting money from the public, which inevitably pushes content toward the left to cater to the supporters who are funding it.


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Follow the Money: Business Stories You Should Be Doing Now Conference Hall, Seoul CCEI

Friday, May 27, 2:15-3:15 p.m..

Right Balance Panelists STELLA KIM Journalist and producer NBC, South Korea

You don’t need a finance degree to write a business story. Sometimes the most compelling angles are ones that every reader can relate to. From South Korea’s coffee wars to the popularity of Yogurtmobiles to the impact of Chinese tourism, every interesting story can be told through the lens of business, money and finance. The things people spend their money on can reflect hot consumer trends, tech innovations, economic conditions and trade partnerships. And for many readers, the family feuds of top business moguls can be just as entertaining as celebrity gossip. Bureau chiefs and top editors talk about their favorite stories, the hottest business stories and trends you should be writing about and how to go about it.




Managing editor Media Today, South Korea

Seoul bureau chief Wall Street Journal, South Korea


SEUNGYOON LEE Cofounder Raddish, U.S., Byline, U.K.


Seoul bureau chief Bloomberg, South Korea

Senior Asia correspondent Quartz, Hong Kong


CEO Newsbacker, U.S./The Korea Observer South Korea

Moderator OANH HA

Asia consumer news editor Bloomberg, Vietnam

TONY MUNROE Seoul bureau chief Reuters, South Korea

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Investigating the Panama Papers Saturday, May 28, 10:45 a.m.- 12:00 p.m.

Seminar Room, D.Camp

By Elaine Ramirez


he Panama Papers, a global whistleblowing investigation involving an unprecedented document leak of 2.6 terabytes, was unprecedented not only for the massive data size and range of high-profile figures implicated, but also the scope of involvement to get the story. The ongoing global project has brought together journalists from over 100 news outlets in tight secrecy for over a year to comb through the archives of the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca to determine whether leading figures from Russia’s Vladimir Putin to Argentinian footballer Lionel Messi were using secret tax havens. It is a feat that combines data journalism with old-school investigative journalism. For some traditional, hands-on journalists, analyzing digital files with spreadsheets and database managers has been a cumbersome experience and a wake-up call to the shortfall in their technological skills. Tech-savvier reporters have taken advantage of the topgrade infrastructure set up by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which organized the massive project. Regardless, many participating journalists saw it as a massive opportunity to collaborate on and engage in a project with a scale never seen before. For selecting subjects, public interest was key. They started out by searching cities, countries and high-profile social and political figures in the massive data set of files and ICIJ directory. A small team strewn across the U.S. and Japan uncovered shell companies formed by a handful of business moguls, including Makoto Iida and Juichi Toda,


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the founding fathers of Japan’s security industry, and Toshiyuki Miyamoto, who was fined for scamming dozens of people out of more than $3 million. “I was allowed to access the data, and it was simply incredible,” says Yasuomi Sawa, a participating investigative journalist from Japan’s Kyodo News. “Some documents gave me concrete evidence of the owners of shell companies. We also found some very candid conversations in fax and email correspondence, which revealed (the account owners’) true intentions in making such entities.” Modern-day internet technology has changed the way we do journalism. Being comfortable with data, checks and basic analysis is now a given for today’s young journalists. Instead of one big story given by a source to journalists from one local media organization, many big stories are given to journalists around the world in one go. What young journalists should learn is not only new tech skills but also a new mindset, says Scilla Alecci, a New York-based journalist who worked on the Japan files. “I believe that the innovative nature of this investigation was in the ability of many journalists — sometimes working for rival publications — to share information and ultimately work on a common project. It was a very collaborative experience and the ‘scoop mindset’ was put on the side,” she says. Sawa and Alecci join Korea Center for Investigative Journalism reporter Yoojung Lee, who participated in the South Korean investigations, to discuss their use of technology to comb the biggest data leak in history and the Panama Papers’ implications for the future of investigative journalism.



Freelance investigative reporter and documentary producer, U.S./Japan


Investigative reporter Korea Center for Investigative Journalism, South Korea

YASUOMI SAWA Investigative reporter Kyodo News, Japan

Moderator PHILIP PAN Illustration by Gavin Huang

Asia bureau editor-in-chief New York Times, Hong Kong

New. Now. Next Media Conference May 27-29, 2016



Bots and Drones: Journalism in the Age of AI Friday, May 27, 1:00-2:00 p.m.

Open Stage, Seoul CCEI


SEONGJOON CHO Photographer, founder Drone Images, South Korea


Executive editor for AsiaPacific Bloomberg News, Hong Kong

Moderator ANGIE LAU

Anchor Bloomberg TV, Hong Kong

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Director of interactive and digital news production Associated Press, U.S./Hong Kong

HEATHER TIMMONS Senior Asia correspondent Quartz, Hong Kong

Google’s artificial intelligence program AlphaGo’s victory over the iconic Go grandmaster Sedol Lee in March was the latest reminder that creativity and intuition may no longer be traits exclusive to humans. The five-game match sent shockwaves across Asia, where Go is cherished and enjoyed as one of the most creative games ever devised. Since then, debate has ensued over how the progress of artificial intelligence might lead to the replacement and even elimination of jobs. Some lamented the impending end of their profession and how they could be replaced by machines. This may sound like a far-fetched future for journalists, but it isn’t. The media industry has already embraced computer programs in many ways. Newsrooms can now deploy automated systems to generate headlines and stories on demand. Photojournalists can use drones to photograph from new perspectives and change the way the public sees the world. In many of these cases, the use of computer programs and automated systems has allowed human journalists to focus on reporting. Reporters and editors can use these new tools while still securing their place among the bots and drones. The panel will explore how news organizations can best deploy these new tools, maximize resources and navigate the challenges behind using new technologies. It will also inquire into how the tasks and areas in journalism and reporting that can be automated, and define the qualities and the skills expected from journalists in an age of news automation, robot journalism and drones.

Live-streaming the News

Virtual Reality in the Newsroom Saturday, May 28, 9:30-10:30 a.m.

Friday, May 27, 3:30-4:30 p.m. Open Stage, Seoul CCEI

Multipurpose Hall, D. Camp

Virtual reality once seemed like a gimmick, but it is emerging as journalism’s next frontier. Full-body journalism allows news consumers to customize their own experience and explore the dimensions that “analog” mediums such as print and broadcast have cut out. This form of storytelling using 360-degree cameras and other technology is revolutionizing the way journalists cover disasters such as the Nepal earthquake, the Ebola crisis and a Syria bombing, and the technology is only getting more accessible. Multimedia experts will discuss the future of virtual reality in journalism.


The need for broadcast crews to lug around big cameras for live shots to share video is decreasing as mobile gadgets become increasingly versatile. Today’s tech-savvy journalists are engaging audiences with livestream video, a medium that also allows citizen journalists to record and share events with the world as they unfold. Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter’s Periscope are the platforms pioneering this new method of storytelling.


STEVE HERMAN Southeast Asia bureau chief Voice of America, Thailand

Digital News Room Vice Editor Chosun Media, South Korea



News and government partnership manager Twitter, South Korea

Director of interactive and digital news production Associated Press, U.S./Hong Kong


JAY HARTWELL Student media adviser University of Hawaii at Manoa, U.S.

Senior producer Wall Street Journal, Hong Kong

Moderator AJ LIBUNAO

Assistant lecturer Journalism and Media Studies Center, University of Hong Kong

Moderator SEAN LIM

MIKE RAOMANACHAI Technology reporter Voice TV, Thailand

Anchor KBS World, South Korea

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Virtual Reality with Host

Google Cardboard is the most affordable DIY virtual reality kit that supports both Apple and Android smartphones. In this hands-on workshop, virtual reality expert Taewon Park from Google and YouTube will show how to use Google Cardboard to access content that is already available online and how to create and edit 360-degree photography and virtual reality presentations.


Team leader for YouTube Google, Japan

Saturday, May 28, 10:45 a.m-12:00 p.m.

Meeting Room AB, D.Camp

10-Minute K-beauty Makeup Tips with a YouTube Star Host Saturday, May 28, 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Meeting Room AB, D.Camp



In Seoul, the rising star of the global beauty industry, men and women alike go through more than 10 steps for their daily and nightly skincare routine. This may sound excessive, but it can be adapted to help busy journalists maintain a dewy, spotless look that Seoulites strive for. Local K-beauty makeup artist and YouTube

K-beauty makeup artist

star Liah Yoo will show quick makeup tricks that journalists can use 10 minutes before a live TV interview and teach how to implement a satisfactory skincare routine that won’t make you lose sleep. They will also discuss the latest K-beauty trends and recommend top products available in Korea.

TV Interviews and Best Practices Saturday, May 28, 2:45-3:45 p.m.

Meeting Room AB, D.Camp

Working on air requires the ability to read people, assess the situation and determine the best strategies to get the most out of an interview. As video becomes ubiquitous, journalists will have to learn to conduct interviews on camera — or on iPhone, Android and other mobile devices. That footage could end up in a podcast, on YouTube or as a video insert in an online story. Fewer reporters will still be allowed the anonymity of a


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Anchor Bloomberg TV, Hong Kong

phone call or notepad as audiences demand more dynamic media. Bloomberg TV anchor Angie Lau, president of the Asian American Journalists Association’s Asia chapter, will discuss how to prepare for live interviews, how to get interviewees to open up, understanding the agendas of both interviewer and interviewee, and injecting substance and style into the conversation.

How to Publish a Book

Saturday, May 28, 2:45-3:45 p.m.


Seminar Room, D.Camp


“Spartan Creativity: The Rise of Korea’s Samsung Empire” (2017), South Korea


“American Business and the Korean Miracle” (2004), “Modern Korea: All That Matters” (2014), U.K./South Korea

If writing an article is like a date, book publishing is a marriage. Distinguished writers discuss their journeys from journalist to published author, highlighting the pitfalls and obstacles they overcame. They will advise on getting an agent, putting together a pitch, finding a publisher and taking their work to the next level. They will discuss when you should consider publishing a book, what kind of stories publishers are looking for and how to transition from journalist to published author.

Storytelling with Data Technological advancement has made the collection of and access to data easier than ever. The contemporary challenge for journalists, then, has become how to organize and make good use of this data. This workshop aims to help reporters with little or no knowledge of data journalism to categorize data, cite trends and find stories as well as visualize information in a way that appeals to diverse audiences.

Friday, May 27, 3:30-4:30 p.m.


Freelance investigative reporter U.S./Japan

Working Your Own PR: Pitching to the Media Meeting Room AB, D.Camp

Saturday, May 28, 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Hosts CHELSEA PHUA Associate partner Bell Pottinger, Singapore

Conference Hall, Seoul CCEI

FIONA BAE CEO fionabae Ltd., South Korea

PR isn’t always easy. Numerous emails to foreign journalists may go unreturned, with companies and governments thirsting for international coverage. Asia-based PR professionals Fiona Bae and Chelsea Phua specialize in bringing local stories to international media. They distinguish between local and international PR with separate strategies. In South Korea, it is not uncommon for PR representatives to call a journalist or an editor requesting to modify or remove a story — a kiss of death if tried with an international media outlet. Bae and Phua will discuss the dos and don’ts of pitching to international media and advise on how to pitch an eye-catching news release that won’t end up in the trash folder.


Investigative reporter Korea Center for Investigative Journalism, South Korea

Mobile Journalism Saturday, May 28, 4:00-5:00 p.m. Cafe, D.Camp In Asia, where people more often go online through their mobile device than a desktop computer, mobile journalism is becoming more accessible and more relatable. Jay Hartwell, a reporter and author turned media adviser, will demonstrate how to create content and reach an audience.

Host JAY HARTWELL Student media adviser, University of Hawaii at Manoa, U.S.

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Establish Your New Leadership Platform Power Leadership Training with Ron Brown

Sunday, May 29, 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

Multipurpose Hall, D.Camp

By Oanh Ha


met Ron Brown a decade ago at AAJA’s Executive Leadership Program. What he taught about leadership and influence transformed my thinking. Brown is one of the most sought-after corporate trainers in the U.S., working with Fortune 100 companies. At N3Con’s Power Leadership Training workshop on Sunday, Brown will teach participants how to take control of their careers by understanding the skills needed for influence and leadership. The workshop is possible through the support of Cathay Pacific Airlines. Below is an edited conversation with Brown.

and other organizational dynamics. I want people to develop skills such as the mastery of politics — ­ things that they may be uncomfortable with. Q. Taking on a leadership role can be intimidating, even scary, for some. A. Leadership can be a little scary. I want to help people see their cultural blinders and barriers and show them that they can work through these issues to be the leader they want to be. It can be uncomfortable because it may run against the grain of how they were brought up. My seminar provides a way to understand issues of readiness, cultural barriers and how to master the challenges. The results of my work over time are that people become stronger, more self-confident and more able to take on enormous leadership roles.

Q. How much of leadership is innate and RON BROWN how much of it is learned? A. There is a certain amount of leadership that Leadership consultant may be innate with certain people. Some have Banks Brown, U.S. had great developmental experiences growing up that make them more inclined to lead. But most of the leaders I have met have developed themselves over time. It’s a marriage between their ambition and their Q. For Asian leaders specifically, how might their willingness to have role models and learn from other people. perspective on leadership be different? It is a lot of work. Leadership has to be something you A. One issue is that in some Asian cultural values, desire and want to be good at. Then it becomes less hard leadership is about being “worthy” and “earning” influence. work and more self-fulfillment. A common Asian response to politics is that it’s a “necessary evil” and a distraction. And yet a skilled leader Q. What skills will those taking the Power Leadership must be able to master the politics in any organization. Training leave with? There may be more effective ways to accelerate gaining A. I want to help people understand what really counts at leadership if you work through the cultural perspectives. work, to understand the concepts of organizational power, For non-Asians, this will be an opportunity to look at leadership and influence. People can be effective when they the way they view Asian culture, Asian leaders and have a clear and grounded understanding of these factors misperceptions of Asian culture.

Documentary Screening 8:30-9:30 a.m., Saturday, May 28

6th floor Meeting Room AB, D.Camp

The 104-year-old American Jessie Lichauco was at the epicenter of events that shaped 20th-century Philippines and possesses a unique perspective on how her adoptive country and the world has evolved since. Her granddaughter, Philippines-based journalist Sunshine Lichauco de Leon, recently produced and cowrote her first


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documentary, “Curiosity, Adventure and Love,” which weaves together the stories of Lichauco’s life, account of Philippine history since arriving in Manila in 1933, and insights from a unique perspective that reminds viewers of the power of our humanity. The documentary will be presented during Saturday breakfast, followed by a Q&A with the director hosted by Angie Lau.

Gala Dinner


“How I Became a North Korean” (2016), South Korea

Saturday, May 28, 7:00-10:00 p.m. Saturday’s events are topped off with a gala dinner hosted by AAJA Asia chapter president Angie Lau on the elegant rooftop of Ramada Hotel Seoul. Award-winning Seoul-based author Krys Lee will serve as gala speaker. Lee, the author of the short story collection “Drifting House” and upcoming novel “How I Became a North Korean,” has received the Rome Prize, the Story Prize Spotlight Award and the Asian/Pacific American Libraries Association’s Honor Title in Adult Fiction Literature, and was a finalist for the BBC International Story Prize. Her fiction, journalism and literary translations have appeared in Granta, The Kenyon Review, Narrative, San Francisco Chronicle, Corriere della Sera and The Guardian,

Newsroom Tour

Friday, May 27, 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Bloomberg Seoul headquarters

Kicking off the first social event of the weekend is the VIP reception at Bloomberg’s Seoul bureau. It will be an opportunity for top journalists in the region to meet, mingle and share ideas while enjoying catered food and drinks. The Seoul bureau was established in 1996 with a single correspondent. As of May 2016, it has 65 people in the office, including reporters, editors and data analysts, and those working in marketing, sales and IT. Despite the podlike conference rooms, chic furniture and a 180-degree view of Seoul and the nearby mountains including Bukhansan, it is said that the best parts of the office are the irresistible snack stations. The event is invite-only.


among others. Lee takes the readers through an emotional journey of life in North Korea in her new novel “How I Became a North Korean,” which will be publicly available in August. During the dinner, the hosts will name the winner of the first annual AAJA AsiaGoogle Digital Journalism Student Award, which recognizes the best journalism that features new ways of storytelling using digital technology to tell stories that matter in the region. In partnership with the award’s sponsor Google, AAJA judges have chosen the best work that tells the ongoing story and issues of how our society continues to evolve in the physical and digital world.

Friday, May 27, 8:30-11:30 a.m.

Gwanghwamun in central Seoul is home to many of the most influential media companies, both local and international, partly because of its proximity to the government offices including the presidential office. Two of South Korea’s three most circulated newspapers are here, as well as the leading newswire services in South Korea (Yonhap), Japan (Kyodo) and the

VIP Reception

Ciel Garden, Ramada Hotel Seoul

Conference Hall, Seoul CCEI

United States (AP). Top global newspapers also have their offices here, including the International New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times. The tour, free to N3Con participants, features a roundtable chat with bureau chiefs to hear about the bureaus’ histories as well as to meet other reporters.

Resume Doctor Does your resume need a check-up? Then schedule a review with one of our senior AAJA members who have volunteered their time as resume doctors. The sessions are free and open only to AAJA members. Register on N3Con’s Eventbrite page. From N3Con.com, click “Get Tickets.”

Saturday, May 28, 12:00-1:00 p.m. 6th floor Meeting Room AB for broadcast 4th floor Seminar Room, for print D.Camp

Advisers include TONY MUNROE Seoul bureau chief Reuters, South Korea



Video and radio journalist TBS eFM, South Korea

Chinese website editor-in-chief International New York Times, China


Seoul bureau chief Bloomberg, South Korea


Career strategist Journalism and Media Studies Center, University of Hong Kong

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cyberfight for media Cover Story

freedom 24

Mobile technology is helping the repressed find a voice. But that doesn’t make journalists freer


ravit Rojanaphruk worked at The Nation for 23 years. One of Thailand’s top reporters and editors, he was fired following the military coup of 2014, detained twice, forbidden to travel and harassed regularly by the world’s last remaining military junta. “I could never overstress the price I paid for being vocal,” Rojanaphruk says. The Thai government has embarked on a “blitzkrieg” against press freedom, according to Benjamin Ismail, head of the Asia-Pacific desk at Reporters

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Without Borders (RSF), the press freedom watchdog headquartered in Paris. But Rojanaphruk, despite having no access to print media, has been able to keep going — thanks to his mobile and internet access. The Thai government is so concerned about Rojanaphruk’s online work that a soldier is permanently assigned to monitor his Twitter and Facebook accounts, he says. “Journalists, myself included, use Twitter and Facebook to directly

By Dave Hazzan Photos courtesy AP Graphics by Gavin Huang

disseminate news and views as well as to connect with the public,” Rojanaphruk says. “Censorship on social media is more difficult (to execute), and citizens themselves are now increasingly becoming netizens with their own voices.” But access to social media still hasn’t made Rojanaphruk free. Tim Unwin, the UNESCO chair for the Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICT4D), says mobile and internet technologies are only so powerful. “We all liked to believe a long time ago that mobile devices and ICT in general — the internet — were free, open and democratizing, and therefore had the potential to be anarchic and actually change regimes,” Unwin says. “I think the evidence is pretty clear now that … the vast majority of states actually monitor the use of digital technologies pretty closely. (And) it isn’t just what some people like to call oppressive regimes. “The potential to change things, which fundamentally many of us believed in, may not really happen,” he adds. Mobile and internet technology are now an indispensable part of every reporter’s arsenal. Many citizens are empowered like never before with information, even in some of the world’s most repressive regimes. Dictators and pseudo-democrats are afraid enough to invest massive amounts of time, energy and capital into monitoring, censoring and blocking what citizens can read, for fear they will know too much. According to Unwin, however, these technologies alone are not enough. “We must get rid of what I call an instrumental view of technology, which sees the technology as making the change,” he says, “but instead see the technology as something that can be used for good or bad, (as) an accelerator.”


uprising The crackdown on press freedom in Thailand is symptomatic of what is happening around the region. Whether it’s Communist nations like China, Vietnam or Laos, the Thai junta “managed democracies” like Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, or emerging democracies like Myanmar and East Timor — all across Asia, press freedom is tumbling south. Journalists both professional and amateur are locked up, sued for “defamation,” beaten, stabbed, kidnapped, forced to recant their “crimes” on television and woken by the phone calls of terrified relatives begging them to stop reporting, according to RSF. Even Japan and South Korea, countries that like to boast of their Western-style press freedoms, have seen them severely decline over the past few years. Regardless of the relationship between the government and the press, mobile and internet-based technologies have revolutionized how journalists, bloggers and other citizens express themselves and report the news. In the past, the news content available to Chinese consumers in print, on TV or on the radio was either provided by the government or distributed or broadcast underground by dissidents at great danger to both the users and the producers. For such consumers, mobile internet access has changed everything. “What mobile access has done is place a world of information at their fingertips — (albeit) yes, a censored (one),” says

ATTACKED Editorial staff members of Ming Pao hold their newspaper, whose front story covers the former editor Kevin Lau who was assaulted and injured during a protest, outside the paper’s office in Hong Kong on Feb. 27, 2014.

Charlie Smith, cofounder of Great Fire, an organization dedicated to fighting censorship in China. “The Chinese are undoubtedly much better for whatever access to information they have.” Every year, Smith points out, China sees tens of thousands of antigovernment demonstrations. While demonstrators may not be specifically demanding democracy, per se, “the vast majority (are) advocating for democratic types of things: more say in the choice of local officials, ending government corruption, securing land rights, putting a stop to pollution, improving education.” Mobile technology has proven to be indispensable to the organization of these demonstrations, as well as to their subsequent underground press coverage — a direct challenge to President Xi Jinping’s pronouncements that all media must “protect the (Communist) Party’s authority and unity.” For an example of this phenomenon, Smith points to the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong, which was largely strategized using mobile technology, though the activities of Vietnam’s pro-democracy party Viet Tan would also suffice. In Malaysia, news site Malaysiakini provides an online platform to discuss local politics and affairs, away from government censors. And in South Korea, OhMyNews, an online news outlet powered by citizen journalists, has spent the past 10 years countering the oligopoly of the nation’s big, mostly conservative newspapers.

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Press freedom and access in Asia

By the numbers

Press freedom levels in Asia over time

At a glance A look at where Asian countries fall on a scale comparing their press freedom and internet penetration.

Bypass to

freedom Buoyed by a slew of new technologies reaching markets around the world, repressed peoples are gaining unprecedented levels of access to uncensored content. A notable contribution to modern tech is virtual private networks, which allow netizens to circumvent national controls by connecting to a third country’s network. Although only about 3 percent of Chinese users utilize VPNs, the government takes the offense of skirting censors seriously enough to shut down service providers by the handful. But once one is blocked, another takes its place. This environment has led to the emergence of The Onion Router, also known as Tor, over the past decade.

Originally developed by U.S. Naval Intelligence, Tor allows users to connect via a series of virtual tunnels — an “onion” network — rather than directly to a source, thus scrambling the message’s source and destination. Its developers say this prevents “traffic analysis” of a person’s internet use, thus making censored pages accessible and preventing authorities from tracking users. Human Rights Watch, a New Yorkbased human rights advocate, says Tor — which is used by Panama Papers investigative reporters — has been instrumental in getting around the country’s “Great Firewall.” Tor’s service has also found a supporter in anticensorship organization Global

Voices Online. According to Human Rights Watch, some “tens of thousands” of Chinese netizens were using Tor in 2006, but no more recent information is available. A Tor spokesperson simply said there were “lots” of Tor users in the Asia-Pacific region. RSF and Asia-Pacific desk head Benjamin Ismail are most excited about a new technology known as Collateral Freedom. A type of code developed by Great Fire, Collateral Freedom allows replicas of existing websites, called mirror sites, to be posted on https:// websites that businesses and governments need to access. A Chinese dissident’s blog, for example, could be mirrored on Amazon Web Service. Since https:// websites are encrypted, authorities cannot block specific parts of the website, according to Ismail. If censors wish to shut down the website, they must shut down the entire host site, something they would be loath to do with a large corporation.

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FIGHT FOR PRESS FREEDOM Journalists and their supporters rally outside Hong Kong government headquarters on March 2, 2014, in support of former editor of Ming Pao newspaper Kevin Lau, who was assaulted and injured on Feb. 26.

Blocking Amazon, the Great Fire website notes, “would have devastating economic consequences inside of China.” And Amazon is just one example — other large corporations that do business in China, such as banks, would be similarly useful. “The purpose is to leverage global internet infrastructure to deliver uncensored content to China,” says Smith. “The Chinese authorities are faced with one choice: to allow this information to make it through and into China, or to block foreign internet completely, which is what the ‘damage’ would be.” A growing list of news outlets are adopting Collateral Freedom, from the Asia Sentinel, an independent online newspaper often targeted by Thailand and Malaysia, to the New York Times in China. Malaysia’s Sarawak Report, for example, covered a significant scandal involving the prime minister and was subsequently blocked, but Collateral Freedom enables the paper’s website to be accessible in the country. The Chinese government in particular has not reacted positively to the emergence of Collateral Freedom. Great Fire was subject to a massive DDoS attack in March 2015. According to an investigation by the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, the denial of service originated with Chinese search engine Baidu’s servers, but was almost certainly launched by the Chinese government with a hacking tool the report calls the “Great Cannon.” Baidu denies its servers were hacked, and the Chinese government has refused to answer questions about the event. Individuals at Great Fire have also been threatened. “It has been difficult, but it has also been rewarding as we have made some progress,” Smith says, but can’t go into detail. “We believe in freedom of access to information for everyone, which is why we bother with this.”


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isn’t free But if mobile and internet technology are freeing up media around the world, these developments have not made journalists much freer, judging by RSF’s media freedom report for 2016. Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists, argues that the world has become far more dangerous for journalists — and that digital technology is partly to blame. Put simply, governments can use social

media as a means of tracking dissident journalists — particularly those without publicized ties to multinational outlets. In an article by Quartz writer Anya Schiffrin, Simon addresses violence against reporters, saying, “Local freelancers and bloggers upon whom the media increasingly rely are far more vulnerable than big-name correspondents protected by the likes of the New York Times.” It would appear that the same technology that enables acts of citizen journalism

critical mass of activity.” Then there is the question of who is a journalist and what makes them qualified to report the news. In the face of those who questioned the ethics of his interview with fugitive drug baron El Chapo, actor Sean Penn demanded on “60 Minutes” that his critics show “the license that says that they’re a journalist.” There’s a reason why no such license exists in free societies — to decide who can and cannot become a journalist would be massive constraint of press freedom. But does that mean anyone with a mobile device and internet connection is a journalist? “It would be a serious mistake to think that the so-called ‘citizen journalists’ — important as they are to public debate

— can entirely replace large, professional institutions organized to report the news,” writes Lee Bollinger in Foreign Policy magazine. “The benefits of scale, professionalism and institutional support are significant when it comes to covering actions of governments or multinational corporations.” Unwin admires how citizen journalists can reach places where regular reporters may not have access. In November 2015, he witnessed a suspected terrorist lockdown at Gatwick Airport and photographed and live-blogged the event. “I think that is a really neat example of the way citizens can get places that the formal media can’t,” Unwin says. “The dark side … was that it led to a whole lot of trolling as well.”

also puts such contributors at risk for retribution from the regimes they challenge. Evaluating the outcomes of informal news coverage, senior correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari of Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe stresses that mobile journalism alone, no matter how courageous, isn’t enough to end repression. “For democracy to advance (in repressive countries), action on the ground is needed by citizens who are willing to pay a price,” she says in a report for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The ability to communicate and organize online may help such action occur, but it is only a small part of what is needed to create a

It has been difficult, but it has also been rewarding. We believe in freedom of access to information for everyone, which is why we bother with this. - Charlie Smith, Great Fire cofounder



Terry Xu, chief editor of the Online Citizen, an independent online newspaper in Singapore, has been repeatedly harassed by the Singaporean government — a “managed democracy” that has sued and prosecuted journalists for sedition, libel and defamation to silence criticism. In spite of these setbacks, Xu continues to do what he does: namely, keep the electorate “informed and educated.” He says new technology has been of great help. “Mobile technology has obviously helped independent media like the Online Citizen to reach out to a larger segment of society and deprive the conventional media of their monopoly

through the printed medium,” Xu says. “(If) the only source of information (is the) mainstream media, it is very unlikely Singapore will see much progress in its electorate. This is why the site has to exist — to educate the public and to write on issues and injustice that people in Singapore face.” Rojanaphruk, meanwhile, continues to use social media to fight and delegitimize the Thai junta. “Social media has been big in opposing the military junta, and the regime appears very concerned about unchecked social media,” he says. “They have detained a few people who are political influencers on social media for up to seven days without charge, myself included, or

tried some for sedition and for violating the computer crimes act,” a law that determines how citizens can act online. But the technology only goes so far. Under the current regime, it remains nearly impossible to be an independent journalist in Thailand, with or without access to technology. The transition to a civilian government, as happened in Myanmar, will eventually be necessary for independent journalism to thrive. Until then, Rojanaphruk says, “I try to hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” Dave Hazzan is a journalist based in Ilsan, South Korea. davehazzan.com

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Focus: Hong Kong

Crowdfunding freedom of speech As press freedom declines, Hong Kong Free Press is a voice of the people By Channy Lee / Photos courtesy Hong Kong Free Press


s Beijing expands its influence over Hong Kong, concerns for Hong Kong’s media independence have been on the rise. There is officially no state censorship in Hong Kong, but the lack of legal protection of freedom of expression is in line with increased instances of self-censorship and physical attacks on columnists, including the knife attack on Ming Pao’s former chief editor and the firebombing of the Next Media headquarters. Press freedom indices in recent years have all shown declines in the city-state. Amid the fallout of the Occupy Central pro-democracy protests that highlighted civil unrest against government control, Tom Grundy founded Hong


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Kong Free Press in June 2015. The new English-language online-only outlet proposed crowdfunding, a method of monetization that would free it from corporate and government influences. It has been well received, raising four times its original target in the first round of crowdfunding and enjoying rapid growth since then. With up to 1 million unique visitors a month and a staff of three full-time employees, HKFP is on its way to dominating Hong Kong’s English-language media landscape while maintaining independence. Grundy, the writer behind a blog that has provided in-depth, unfiltered coverage of political events as they unfolded, sees the large number of blog readers as representing the clear need

to close the gap between Chinese and English reporting in Hong Kong. But even the popularity of 450,000 page views per month could never render a blog a credible news source. To turn this around, he quit his job in education and built Hong Kong’s first independent English-language news source. From the beginning, HKFP’s media independence has been threatened. Its website faced DDoS attacks even before its launch and was blocked in China by the Great Firewall. Then HKFP, along with a few other local digital media, was barred from attending government press conferences, in the absence of a media law that safeguards press freedom — a right guaranteed under Hong Kong’s Basic Law.

Grundy, a Hong Kong resident for 10 years, calls attention to the insufficiency of English news sources. “There’s a lot less going on in English,” he says. “There is absolutely room for more players.” Particularly after the Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba last year purchased the South China Morning Post, the long-standing dominant source of English news in Hong Kong, the HKFP editor-in-chief stressed the need for an alternative voice in the local media landscape. It is in this push for media plurality that HKFP welcomes guest contributions, a move reflective of the conviction that a diverse range of voices — particularly from the less powerful — must be heard through the media. Especially with the international attention the city has garnered from its pro-democracy protests, he observed that more English news needs to be made accessible from Hong Kong — “the first and last free corner of China” — for the rest of the world to stay informed. Live-blogging of events such as the Tianjin blasts, Beijing’s WWII commemoration parade and the first anniversary of the Occupy protests have been part of that effort. “Hong Kong presents a mixed opportunity in that it is hope for freedom of press not only in Greater China but in Asia,” Grundy explains. “The newspapers here, the English ones at least, should be positioning themselves as something like a China newswire because you can report

More English news needs to be made accessible from Hong Kong — “the first and last free corner of China” — for the rest of the world to stay informed.

on China with people that speak the language and have an understanding of the most important stories of our time.” Besides external threats, recruiting and financial sustainability are issues that follow the struggle for a pluralistic media landscape and independence from outside influences. Delivering real-time, original English news in Asia requires reporters to be fully bilingual and have an eye for journalism at the same time. Funding, on the other hand, poses a challenge as all of HKFP’s work is funded by the public. “We wanted something which

was as safe as possible from these kind of vulnerabilities. We have no shareholders, we are nonprofit, completely independent and we serve only our readers and ourselves,” Grundy says. Established on crowdfunding campaigns, the organization now relies on a mixed model consisting of merchandise, micro-donations and potentially advertorials. The startup news organization is constantly evolving. The team is now in search of a China beat reporter for more comprehensive coverage of the Greater China region, and recently launched a news category called “Press Freedom and Censorship” that compiles all of their original coverage about press freedom. And although HKFP currently functions on several sources of funding, Grundy hints he is getting comfortable with the idea that the main source of funding will always be their readers. “I realize that crowdfunding is unbeatable in how it guarantees our independence. If we need to do fundraising every six or 12 months as NPR does and as Wikipedia does, then so be it.” With limited resources and growing threats, HKFP remains reassured on its quest to improve. “I think people will support us as they always have.”

Channy Lee is a journalist based in Seoul, South Korea. She can be reached at channy95@connect.hku.hk.

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Naver’s dominance has led to a dogfight of yellow journalism and clickbait media By Jihyoung Son / Illustration by Gavin Huang


ood show, naked.” “Bikini-clad ladies on runway show.” “Beware of molesters, top models.” “Snake swallowing toad — shocking!” These headlines are the norm on news sites in South Korea, even at the top outlets. Such clickbait headlines are the result of a decade-long dogfight over readership on a single website: Naver. The news bulletin of the nation’s leading Web portal, which 3 in 5 Koreans visit at least once a month, holds monopolistic sway over news readership — and news companies’ online revenue along with it. Young internet users name Naver as their source of news without a second thought, rather than naming a specific news organization, much less a reporter. And the competition to lure readers through Naver’s homepage news bulletin has caused news outlets to churn out clickbait, blackmail advertisers and engage in other forms of yellow journalism to survive on the narrow margins of online advertising. Now, media observers say, their ethics are no better than the entities they were set up to criticize. “With the advent of the new era of digital civilization, traditional news organizations have effectively lost the foundation they built through checks and balances over those holding power,” says internet news pundit, blogger and Hankyung Newspaper digital news desk editor Jinsoon Choi.

A rock and hard place Naver places its news bulletin “Newsstand” below the search bar on its homepage, making it not only a search engine provider but also a main news gateway in Korea. This leads local news organizations to increasingly rely on traffic via Naver to the point of subordination. The traffic, considering its


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volume, has become their key source of advertising revenue. A barrage of Naver users each day access each news organization’s website either through search results or by clicking a headline displayed at Newsstand ­— where some 150 news outlets each have a page to curate and

This is a matter of survival to news outlets, and no one can guarantee the Web portals’ ‘improvement’ (in the digital news ecosystem) will bring about a trickledown effect for news organizations. -Jinsoon Choi, media pundit

likely users are to click — an effortlessly easy task for a user, and a huge means of revenue for operators. The practices of yellow journalism are not limited to such provocative content. Some news outlets are known to blackmail advertisers to buy more ads with threats to spread malicious rumors to damage the companies’ publicity — and sometimes they’ll actually do it. This prompted 86.4 percent of advertisers to buy unwanted and unprofitable ads to prevent supposedly groundless yet damaging rumors from being exposed to Web portal users, according to a 2015 survey by the Korea Advertisers Association. The system also led to websites reposting published articles dozens of times on the portal, a practice locally referred to as “keyword abuse.” Internet newsrooms would monitor Naver’s “Top 10 Real-time Trending Keywords” list and churn out hundreds of related articles to boost the chance of readers reaching their website until Naver tackled the issue by adopting an algorithm-based “news clustering” system in 2014. Pundit Choi argues that profit-focused newsrooms have failed to cope with the arrival of the fresh media environment, making digital newsroom innovation a tall order. “Uncertainty persists in the digital market, whereas ad revenues from print are firm,” he says. “As a result, innovations (in the digital newsroom) have stalled.”

Focus: S. Korea

How South Korea’s top search

feature their own articles — to read a full article on the website. A news outlet’s profitability depends on the amount of traffic coming through Naver, as local readers rarely go straight to news outlets’ websites. This system, however, appears to be detrimental to the media ecosystem. Snaps of cleavage, violence and oddities overwhelm each Newsstand page, dwarfing stories on current issues. The more enticing the headlines, the more

Holding the cards For 15 years, Naver has shaped the way tech-savvy Koreans communicate, search, learn, navigate and consume news. It launched a news bulletin on its homepage in 2005 where it displayed articles it picked. Article links did not lead to the news outlets’ websites, but rather to the Naver News page — resulting in a significant decline in the

engine is hanging newspapers

Who’s to blame?

news outlets’ operating profits. Then Naver allowed news outlets to pick their own articles to display on the bulletin with the launch of the news syndication system Newscast. But as hundreds of news outlets’ stories were crowded onto the same page, the outlets resorted to publishing sensational content to lure users. Naver attempted to ward off yellow journalism with the launch of Newsstand in 2013, but the problem persisted. Worse, the traffic to news outlets’ websites more than halved upon Newsstand’s launch. Moreover, the Newsstand function on the mobile layout does not direct users to each paper’s platform. All of an outlet’s potential traffic revenue flows straight to

Naver’s coffers. For three weeks following its launch, the number of page views on Naver News, excluding Newsstand, soared 103 percent, according to internet usage research company Nielsen KoreanClick. One study estimated that Naver News earned the Web portal operator some $65.2 million in ad revenue in 2013 — about one-third of the combined sales that year of 54 Korean news outlets whose financial data are made public, which amounted to some $2.1 billion. Korean media largely criticize Naver’s market dominance as the culprit behind their woes, citing the study, which suggested more than half of Naver’s ad revenue should go to news outlets.

After the two leading Web search engine operators Naver and Daum Kakao vowed to take action “to seek ethical standards,” news organizations, interest groups, users and academic circles joined up to establish an oversight body this year to tackle such malpractices. “We have sought ways, as a neutral platform, to connect Web users and news organizations,” read a statement from the Web portals. “However, there are growing calls for Web portals’ news monitoring authority to be transferred to the public.” The efforts have been half-successful. While the chance of fake headlines and keyword abuse has begun to decline, so has the number of unique visitors to 10 major news organizations, according to KoreanClick. “This is a matter of survival to news outlets, and no one can guarantee the Web portals’ ‘improvement’ (in the digital news ecosystem) will bring about a trickle-down effect for news organizations,” says Choi. Minjeong Kim, a journalism professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, says no single entity can hold full responsibility. “The Web portal-led system has aggravated the disruption in the media ecosystem, but news outlets do churn out low-quality articles containing the same keywords. Users who do read such low-quality articles are also to blame,” she says.

Jihyoung Son is a journalist based in Seoul, South Korea. He can be reached at fodknow@gmail.com.

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Focus: N. Korea

Tracking the hermit kingdom


With inside sources dwindling, journalists develop their own tech to monitor North Korea Guest column by Chad O’Carroll and Hamish Macdonald, NK News

orth Korea is often seen as a black hole for information — a place that continually frustrates journalists, researchers and the public, who are attempting to obtain critical information on the country and the priorities of its leaders. But in treating this notion as “fact,” a propensity emerges for mainstream media and the general public to accept unchecked stories without critique and to repeat or re-report unverified information. Sadly, this often happens until it becomes accepted as truth. Following the severing of inter-Korean government-to-government contact — a once vital source of information to understand North Korean decisionmaking processes — and the closure of the Gaeseong industrial complex, the need for verifiable and accurate information on North Korea is more critical today than ever. However, the reality is that the number of sources available for South Korean journalists and policymakers to understand what is going on inside the DPRK has reached its lowest point in decades. Following North Korea’s tightened security measures on the Chinese border, defector arrivals to Seoul — once critical sources of contemporary information — have dropped to another low, with related costs in moving information across the border also rising sharply. With the exception of South Korea’s National Intelligence Service and one or two defector-linked news organizations with sources still inside the country, the world now has fewer means for corroborating news or understanding what is going on inside North Korea. This could have far-reaching effects when it comes to detecting emerging points of concern in North Korea before they snowball into far bigger problems that could impact the South. At NK News, this is a problem we fight on a daily basis.


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NK News’ North Korea Ship Tracker technology can geolocate Pyongyang’s merchant vessel fleet to track sanction enforcement, regional trade flow and illicit trafficking. (Courtesy NK News)

But we are at least partially able to overcome it by fostering relationships with foreigners living and working in the country and by utilizing technology and data, which has opened up new avenues of inquiry, means for fact checking and sources of analysis. Indeed, NK News has endeavored to build and utilize emerging tools and technology in order to uncover information about the country, including software that tracks the appearances of North Korea’s leadership. Our “North Korea Leadership Tracker” allows us to geolocate elite appearances, discern their priorities, analyze the rationale behind public events and pinpoint emerging trends, whether in the appearances themselves or the makeup of key leadership groups. By storing and analyzing archival data, we are, in part, able to compare the shifting patterns and practices of Kim Jongil’s regime to those

of Kim Jongun’s. The North Korean Leadership tracker collects, archives and aggregates reports on Pyongyang leadership movements, allowing for the geolocation and organization of reported appearances in the country, as well as detailed biographies of key officials based on inhouse expertise and appearance data. Our “North Korea Ship Tracker” further enables us to track Pyongyang’s merchant vessel fleet in order to understand whether sanctions are being enforced at foreign ports, whether North Korean regional trade has become interrupted or more active, and whether illicit trafficking is occurring on the high seas. Using the latest technology and data from Marine Traffic, NK News monitors the North Korean merchant vessel fleet through Automatic Identification System tracking. This allows for the monitoring of North Korean and North Korean-

The North Korea Leadership Tracker platform collects, archives and aggregates reports on North Korean leadership movements to track their appearances, priorities and other trends. (Courtesy NK News)

linked vessels in real time, globally. By methodologically scraping North Korean state media output from over 10 outlets, our journalists are able to visualize reporting trends, monitor threat levels and unearth archive material that has either been scrubbed or modified by overzealous propagandists. And the use of satellite imagery has allowed more and more eyes to focus on key areas of the country that North Korea’s leadership have denied exist or long kept out of view. Whether assessing activity at facilities relating to its nuclear and ballistic missile programs or the series of prison camps that house tens of thousands of its citizens, increasing numbers of analysts are making constructive use out of imagery. Furthermore, the ability to obtain images and multimedia from those either living or visiting the country can also be used to verify or discover information in conjunction with other technology. In 2014, we combined specially commissioned satellite imagery with

photos provided by local residents and tourists to confirm the precise evening a tragic building collapse occurred in Pyongyang, a timeline that even journalists legally working inside the country were unable to corroborate at the time. Most recently, these techniques helped us show how North Korea illegally imported cable cars to its Masikryong Ski Resort late last year. A foreign resident used a secure internet connection to send us photos of recently installed equipment there, which, when combined with information from a visiting businessperson, helped us identify the exact Austrian resort they had been bought from. While technology enhances the ability for information gathering, it does have its limitations and is best used in conjunction with human expertise and intelligence. A satellite image, for example, is only as valuable as the experience or knowledge of the analyst assessing it. As other avenues of obtaining

information close amid the current political climate, the use of technology and sources that were once mainly used by bloggers and small news organizations like NK News must now be looked at more seriously by those interested in keeping close tabs on developments in North Korea.

NK News is an independent, privately owned news outlet focusing on North Korea. The service was established in April 2010 and has staff in Washington, Seoul and London. nknews.org

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Focus: Indonesia

The future of media is social Millennial media outlets pave the way to the future of Indonesia’s publishing Guest column by Enricko Lukman, Content Collision


ay what you will about listicles and fun GIFs, but these two things have helped millennial media firms like Buzzfeed and Vox rise to stardom. They have also inspired a renaissance in Indonesia of millennial media companies such as IDNtimes, Hipwee and more. Both launched in 2014, IDNtimes and Hipwee have managed to attract tens of millions of monthly readers in the span of less than two years. On top of articles, IDNtimes has also started releasing video content. Its parent company IDN Media recently launched another millennial site called POPBELA that caters to a female audience. Hipwee, meanwhile, focuses more on producing humorous articles and inviting readers to submit stories on its platform. These two companies are making waves in the Indonesian media industry and showing the big boys how online media should operate in the archipelago. Here they share glimpses of their strategies.

Lesson 1: Be everywhere First things first. Content is all about distribution. Both IDNtimes and Hipwee share the belief that media consumption shouldn’t just happen on their own websites. “If (people) enjoy our content on YouTube or Facebook, they do not need to go to our website,” explains IDNtimes CEO Winston Utomo. “Readers should be able to enjoy content on the platforms they prefer.” Likewise, Hipwee CEO Lauri Lahi believes that because of Facebook’s Instant Articles and similar formats appearing from social media channels, “consumption will stay within social media itself and readers might not even know they are reading Hipwee.” Understanding this, IDNtimes and Hipwee have subtle presences everywhere on the Web, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, popular chat app Line and local news apps such as Kurio and BaBe. Both companies stress the importance of managing all presences outside the website, such as running multiple Facebook pages for travel, news or other categories. This strategy bodes particularly well in Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest social networking countries. A whopping 43 million users open Facebook on a daily basis, and the nation ranks among the top countries for other services such as Instagram and Line. “Most Indonesians are very social by nature,” says Lahi.


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“Whether they are happy or sad or had a fight with their boyfriend, they will want everyone to know it. The same applies for interesting content – if they find something that triggers an emotion, they want all their friends to know.”

Lesson 2: Be ruthlessly data-driven As new-generation media, IDNtimes and Hipwee claim to pay keen attention to the numbers in front of them to understand what their audience cares about, and how they prefer to consume it. IDNtimes has three data dashboards to produce and analyze content during preproduction, production and postproduction. It also has more than 20 metrics to determine an article’s success. Hipwee’s infatuation with data is also strong. Editors and writers learn how to draw conclusions from the readership data, then use it to choose future topics and determine how to write about them. “The times when a reader opened a newspaper and read it for 30 minutes in peace are over. People care less about who wrote the article and more about who shared it,” says Lahi. With all these elements to consider, a new generation of publishers must take data more seriously, as media success is not only about pageviews, but also authority. The challenge for millennial media companies will be to provide not only entertainment, but also substance. Content Collision is a Jakarta-based agency providing content at scale in English and Bahasa Indonesia for brands and publishers. www.contentcollision.co

In disaster-hit Nepal, radio stations connect with communities through social media Guest column by Deepak Acharya, Community Information Network

Focus: Nepal

Social media provides clarity through the rubble

Courtesy AP


he devastating earthquake on April 25, 2015, and its aftershocks caused massive destruction in 14 districts in Nepal. Millions of people were displaced and thousands of buildings, bridges and other infrastructure collapsed. Many lost their loved ones. Shelters turned into crematoriums. The whole nation fell into grief and fear like never before. Through the rubble of disaster, social media provided both comfort and clarity. It is not just a communication channel; social media is a constituency that should work with other institutions toward a safer, disaster-resilient society. Digital platforms provide an important disaster management service. Through them, the government and media can supply information and directions to the affected public and disseminate preparedness measures against future disasters. As forums for public conversation, they can reveal needs for improvement in government response and sometimes withhold potentially counterproductive information. Many radio journalists were injured and thousands of houses collapsed. Nonetheless, victims urged closed radio stations to operate. Under these extremely challenging circumstances, social media helped radio stations whose buildings were destroyed to share information

when communities were unable to watch news on television or receive newspapers. Radio journalists joined efforts for the rescue and relief of victims and used social media as a tool for disseminating information, collecting feedback and even gathering donations. There are more than 450 radio stations serving Nepal’s diverse communities covering more than 90 percent of the population, and they use social media. Social media and FM radio have been the newest dimensions of media development in Nepal, and they are playing important roles in disaster management. Social media is a key change agent contributing to Nepal’s social transformation by informing, educating and empowering communities, particularly among the disadvantaged. Despite the advancements achieved through social media, Nepal’s media landscape still suffers from weak foundations. Geographical and technological barriers such as remoteness, lack of proper equipment and means to send timely information about the disaster to newsrooms have also hindered media. It also suffers a lack of documentation and proper information on past disasterrelated issues from stakeholders. The government does not have proper designated communication channels to relay disaster-related information.

Additionally, it is difficult to obtain reliable information from sources due to a lack of coordination among the various ministries within the government and between development agencies. A lack of prioritization of DRM ­— a set of digital audio broadcasting technologies designed to work over analog radio bands such as AM and FM — in the newsrooms means that political news dominates the media. To address these challenges, the media needs to properly present disaster news to communities so as not to cause panic. Nepalese media must also develop proper ethics and professional standards in disaster reporting, provide frequent training on disaster-related issues. Preparedness of media houses and availability of safety tools for disaster reporting is necessary. Meanwhile, the government should establish authentic information centers at each level. The rise of new media and social networks can lead to rapid change in communication technology on DRM. The Community Information Network connects Nepal’s community radios into a single satellite network. It was launched in 2009 by the Association of Community Radio Broadcasters Nepal. www.acorab.org.np

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Focus: India

Mobile-first India demands news on the go News apps are on the rise, but face a crowded, unmonetized market Guest column by Sumit Chakraberty, Tech in Asia


ndia is the world’s fastest-growing mobile market, and it shows no sign of slowing down. Domestic smartphone sales are predicted to zoom 29 percent this year, even as they flatten out in the U.S. and China, while the number of mobile internet users in India is projected to cross 370 million in June. Two-thirds of the country’s online traffic comes from mobile devices, nearly double the global average mobile internet usage ratio. Clearly, India is mobile-first and is likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. Since early 2015, a slew of mobile-useroriented news apps have been zeroing in on this mushrooming mobile user base. One of the earliest was News in Shorts, which presents 60-word summaries of news in different categories with links to the sources. The startup later rebranded itself to InShorts to include other forms of short content. Other apps followed, each with its own twist to hook the mobile user. PlanetGoGo, whose cofounders earlier worked for Japanese chat app Line, presents news on the lock screen. It even rewards users with data top-ups for reading news items. The Quint has its own writers and subscribes to news agencies, like traditional media. It targets mobile users in breaking up the content into bite-sized capsules. Mostly, these are takeoffs on what’s buzzing. It was founded by Raghav Bahl after his exit from TV news firm Network 18. Then there’s The Wire, which mostly relies on user-generated content; The News Minute, which focuses on regional news in the south; and ScoopWhoop, which has a plethora of listicles a la BuzzFeed. What’s not evident in all this buzz is a path to monetization. Advertising money in India mostly goes to print and TV media. And subscriptions are unlikely to work in digital media where


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What’s not evident is a path to monetization. Subscriptions are unlikely to work in digital media where there are so many sources of bite-sized news.

there are so many sources of bite-sized news. SoftBank president Nikesh Arora, on a recent visit to India, tweeted that he’s not a fan of news-based startups because they’re “tough to monetize.” The differentiation in these apps is mostly in their sourcing of content: aggregation, user-generated or original. There’s little to distinguish in the nature of their content. The common assumption is that mobile users want small capsules of what’s popular and buzzing. These assumptions are being reexamined around the world. BuzzFeed has been experimenting with longform content. Its vice president Scott Lamb recalls an 8,000-word essay about a guy buying a house in Detroit and fixing it up. It got more than a million views. More importantly, Lamb points out that people reading the article on mobile devices were spending 20 minutes on average on it — much higher than the time spent on the same article on desktops. Perhaps it’s easier to lie back comfortably with a smartphone and read a long piece through to the end. News apps in India, too, may have to rethink their models once the squeeze comes from investors to monetize. Right now, they’re happy to chase growth on the back of the smartphone boom.

Tech in Asia is a technology news outlet covering startups in Asia. techinasia.com

Focus: Japan

In Japanese media, fair is a four-letter word Abe administration threatens press freedom with favoritism Guest column by Hajime Nambu, Japan Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Workers Unions

Courtesy AP


he latest ranking of Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index was disastrous for the Japanese media industry. The country was ranked No. 72 out of 180 countries and territories in 2016, continuing the slide from No. 61 in 2015, No. 59 in 2014 and No. 11 in 2010. But those of us in Japanese media are not surprised at all. The existence of freedom of expression in Japan, once taken for granted, is now a grave concern. It is clear to us that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is the predominant force behind this drop. Abe, who is also the president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is known for his ultraconservative politics. Ever since his first senatorial term in 1993, he has aimed to modify the current Constitution, which was heavily influenced by the U.S., to allow Japan to participate in military operations overseas. To achieve this goal, he must heavily control the media because he knows that the Japanese people don’t support it. Abe uses, for example, a closed-circle strategy: He appears often in the media, but, whenever possible, heavily favors the outlets sympathetic to his cause

and excludes those who don’t share his values. He also cherry-picks the media and grants his favorite outlets exclusivity to news from his cabinet and party members. Needless to say, lacking access to such stories is a serious problem for any reporter. So, the more Abe cherrypicks the media, the fewer negative stories there are, as no reporter can afford to be excluded. Another example is pressuring the media in the name of “fairness.” In February, Internal Affairs and Communications Minister Sanae Takaichi said in a Diet session, “The government can order broadcasters to suspend operations if they continue to air TV programming that is deemed politically biased.” Many journalists and legal specialists criticized the minister’s comment as a threat to press freedom and creating a chilling effect on the media. But this was not the first such comment. During the parliamentary election two years ago, the ruling party handed out a document stating that “reporting shall be done fairly.” Local media knows the phrases “unbiased” and “fairly” are code for “refrain from stories that are inconvenient to the cabinet or the ruling party.” If a TV report doesn’t portray

them in a good light, the ruling party ensures that the media outlet’s leaders know of its disapproval. They say things like, “the story reported today is doubtful from a fairness perspective.” The leaders try to produce an uncritical atmosphere to the power, rather than giving direct suggestions to refrain from negative reports. Journalists have a decision to make: embrace this atmosphere and tone down the story, or lose access to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Cabinet. As a result of this assault on the media, journalists are hesitant to report delicate and controversial stories. And when they do write them, they keep them relatively low-profile. The Japanese constitution guarantees “freedom of expression.” At least it does now, in 2016. What’s worse, “un-freedom of expression” in Japan exists because the media is self-censoring. Instead of fighting the clearly visible pressure, media execute self-censorship and have simply stopped exercising their “freedom of expression.” The Japan Federation of Commercial Broadcasting Workers Unions addresses journalistic freedoms in the broadcast TV industry. www.minpororen.jp

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Focus: Thailand

Newspapers’ fatal flaw If newspapers have any future, it is at the hyperlocal level. But even this is under attack by the virtual world Guest column by Mark Hughes, Bangkok Post


s it is a public company, it doesn’t take much to discover the Post Publishing Public Company Limited, publisher of the Bangkok Post, is losing money. Most would put this down to declining interest in dead-tree newspapers and the burgeoning of the internet, especially on smartphones. A few years ago, newspaper reading was on the rise in developing countries as the quality of, and need for, education rose. I’m not so sure that is still the case. I can count on one hand the number of times I have personally bought a paper over the past 10 or so years. When I want to read a particular news outfit’s view on something or a particular writer, I go straight to the net, as I suspect most people do. The first mistake newspaper bosses made was not to recognize the threat of the net. When it finally dawned on them, they foolishly decided to put their content on it free of charge. That inculcated a sense that news should be free. Their next most damaging act of blindness was not to have a strategy on dealing with the likes of Facebook and Google, which garnered users in their millions and drew in a vast proportion of the advertising that traditional papers relied on to pay their staff. The bosses’ reaction was to cut editorial staff, especially the more expensive experienced ones, and reduce pagination, making the product much weaker with less value for money. If newspapers have any future, it is at the hyperlocal level. But even this is under attack by the virtual world. Even TV news is threatened by the Web. Here at the Bangkok Post, the Web edition draws on the resources of the paper’s journalism, but can enhance


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We have to strictly monitor our comments against what is an increasingly litigious government that, like many others, wants to control the information available to the public.

them with interactivity and limitless space for words, pictures and graphics. However, those in charge have opted for the paid-for model, which I understand attracts not the same, but declining ad revenues as the paper. It is a status symbol to have a Bangkok Post delivery box on your front gate. Our website and paper both endure the same difficulties regarding what are known as the lese majeste laws, and their increasing use and wider interpretation by the ruling junta. Lese majeste, the crime of offending the dignity of a reigning sovereign or state, has been prohibited by Thai law since 1908. The Thai Criminal Code elaborates: “Whoever defames, insults or threatens the king, queen, heirapparent or regent shall be punished with imprisonment of three to 15 years.” Missing from the code, however, is a definition of what actions constitute “defamation” or “insult.” Given our deeply digital news environment that allows comment,

the Bangkok Post’s website has to strictly protect itself and its readers from breaching this law. Unlike the Guardian, whose motto is “comment is free” (although in reality it is censored with a lighter hand), we have to strictly monitor our comments against what is an increasingly litigious government that, like many others, wants to control the information available to the public. Even an obscure act of lese majeste can mean a 15-year automatic jail term with no access to a lawyer. We have a tough editor and leader writers who push the line, but their hands are bound increasingly tighter. China clamps down on dissent, but dissenters have a knack for staying ahead of the game. I used a VPN there to access Facebook, which Beijing bans. Thailand bans access to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, the world’s most popular newspaper website, because it was accused once for insulting the monarchy. In a move that would restrict internet access, there is talk in Thailand of having one gateway for all internet traffic to make it easier to monitor. Nonetheless, like many other places in the world, people here walk about with their eyes so glued to their screens that it has been suggested smartphone users get their own lanes on footpaths. But they may not be getting the whole truth when they read the news, and with the growing sophistication of identifying readers’ interests, their real identities are being harvested by advertisers and others with special interests.

The Bangkok Post is an English-language daily newspaper published in Bangkok, Thailand. www.bangkokpost.com


Will robot reporters replace humans? Machine-generated news era is not far off, but funding is insufficient By Jihyoung Son / Illustration by Gavin Huang


s soon as the Korean stock market closes, a computer program collects information from the Korean bourse, puts it through an algorithm, sorts out remarkable figures — or news — and generates a 600-word straight article. All of it happens in the blink of an eye — 0.3 seconds. The robot reporter, named IamFNBOT, is distinguished with its own byline and email address (robot@fnnews.com). The computer covers the local stock market and publishes an article daily for the Financial News, a local news outlet dedicated to business and economy. From data analytics to news monitoring systems and social media-combing fintech predictors, technological advancements push journalism to new levels every year. But just how close are we to robot reporters replacing humans? At its earliest stage, the concept of robot journalism was to boost news coverage with minimum investment. A college project in 2009 is widely perceived as the prototype of the robot writer, when a team of Northwestern University students on an academic project to tackle local newspapers’ challenge in the digital age devised Stats Monkey to generate baseball game recaps “with little human intervention.” Stats Monkey weaves tried expressions used in sportswriting into a news story instantly, while automatically sorting match information by importance: The higher degree of unexpectedness and newsworthiness that data conveyed, the more remarkable they would be. The software later was licensed by Illinoisbased Narrative Science, where two of the four students on the original team have joined as board members. Seven years later, robot journalism is in Asian newsrooms. More and more media corporations are trumpeting the adoption of news-generating artificial intelligence platforms. Korea’s Financial News operating IamFNBOT was one of them, following China’s Xinhua News Agency and Tencent that employed Kuaibixiaoxin and Dreamwriter,

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respectively. IamFNBOT, launched in January, has honed an algorithm to improve story quality. The team operating the bot, led by Seoul National University professor Joonhwan Lee, says it still requires human intervention. “We input feedback like new expressions into its software, so that it understands the context and condition for future usage by itself.” But he cannot predict when it will be able to implement a complete machine-learning process free of human support. Lee cites prohibitive maintenance costs as the reason computers still cannot substitute human reporters. The Korean operator has faced hefty costs and a scarcity of data. “To run a robot reporter, a news organization would have to pay software developers needed for maintenance,” he says. “It would seem costly, considering wages for conventional journalists.”

At its earliest stage, the concept of robot journalism was to boost news coverage with minimum investment. Seven years later, robot journalism is in Asian newsrooms.

At this stage of robot journalism, seed funding to back more research and development is crucial, says Jungsoo Kang, a tech pundit and blogger. The trick is to make it attractive. Narrative Science, he notes, successfully lured investors by accessing and dealing with U.S. official and intelligence data. “The influence from robot journalism and algorithms to a certain business sector should be visible to attract investment,” Kang adds. “The direct comparison between robot writer and human reporter comes next.” Collecting a data pool is another critical element for robots’ machine-learning capacity in terms of accurate and relevant reporting and any newsrooms willing to adopt a self-operating robot reporter. The secret behind North Carolina-based firm Automated Insights’ news stories published on the Associated Press is big data from Zacks Investment Research, which has enabled it to generate hundreds of millions of stories a year since June 2014. Its archrival Narrative Science released its big-data-oriented tool Quill and sells its articles to media outlets, including Forbes. IamFNBOT, in contrast, currently writes one article per day, as the source of data is “limited,” Lee claims. “I wish the team could be fed with such real-time big data. But it involves securing business contracts, which is a hard thing for a professor to do.”


As social media becomes a primary news source, news outlets risk waning revenue By Channy Lee / Illustration by Gavin Huang


It’s a


n April 13, 2016, NBA fans turned to Facebook for live coverage of LA Lakers star Kobe Bryant’s final game. Sports news outlets including ESPN, USA Today, Yahoo! Sports and the Los Angeles affiliates for Fox and ABC utilized the social media platform’s livestreaming feature, broadcasting live reactions to the game and Q&A sessions with fans. Facebook’s live-streaming tool is too new to monetize, with no estimates for how much the traffic can potentially earn, but it highlights the rise of new means of distributing content and reaching wider audiences. While Twitter has long been dubbed the future of a breaking news platform with its distribution to the masses, Facebook is challenging the open platform’s status as a journalist’s best friend. But concerns are rising over the increasing influence they hold on who publishes what news, who views it and how it is told. Given that advertising follows traffic, content distribution concentrated in social media channels affects how content is monetized. “Facebook has by far the biggest content distribution network — where the money comes — in the world ... But it does not produce content by itself,” says Masato Kajimoto, a professor specializing in social media in journalism at the University of Hong Kong. News organizations used to monopolize content creation and distribution, he explains, so revenue from advertising was stable. But that monopoly is long gone. Content creation is the media outlets’ job while social media dominates distribution. The new business arrangement declares Facebook the winner, with profit from content consumption determined and driven by the billion-user social media platform. Concerns that the social media platform has “swallowed” journalism are not unfounded. Over 60 percent of users on Facebook and Twitter consume news through these channels, while around 40 percent of adults in the U.S. now consider Facebook a source of news, according to a study last year by Pew Research Center. Facebook is persistent in establishing itself as a platform that can account for content production and publication from start to finish, attracting more users to spend more time on the platform. Launching Facebook Live was part of the concerted effort. Signal and Instant Articles, intended to improve monitoring of information flow on news feeds and to optimize both Facebook’s publishing and viewing experiences, respectively, have been more tools of hype for those following the evolving system of news distribution. Facebook has repeatedly rejected the idea that its power

over content distribution allows it to act as a gatekeeper to discovery of news, as users alone control what they view by telling its algorithms what they are interested in. Skeptical journalists argue that embracing and working in the context of these algorithms incentivizes content production based on what will result in more views. It is amid this drive to produce what people want to see that Kajimoto’s greater concern lies in what the changing system might imply about people’s reception of journalism in the digital age. “If demand drives supply, then what we have been seeing is the fact that not many people would like to consume — pay for — or appreciate quality journalism. That is worrying,” he says. Technical capability has taken a huge leap with the increasing involvement of social media, but the costs that go into producing content and the value of news are at stake. And regardless of the debate over whether social media is hurting or helping news outlets, more social media platforms are prepared to play a greater part in delivering the news. In this context, Kajimoto suggests the future of journalism relies on the audience. “If the audience demands good, quality journalism delivered through social media, news organizations can spend resources to provide it. If the audience is satisfied with quick headlines and funny offbeat puff pieces, the future is not bright, no matter what relationship there is between news outlets and social media companies.”

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Confessions from inside a dying newspaper Traditional Korean media outlets survive on corporate and government pandering. They will soon need a real solution By Taehoon Lee


sold my soul to work as a reporter for South Korea’s longest-running English-language newspaper until early 2013. When Samsung was being investigated for possible irregularities, I went to “room salons” with the tech giant’s officials and received lavish sexual entertainment in exchange for staying silent or removing the company’s name from negative press. I wrote advertorials with my byline without informing readers that they were paid content, even though the law stipulates that advertisements should be clearly distinguished from news content. I was one of the 70 staff members of the Korea Times who kept silent about the ethical and legal breaches of the newspaper, which makes about $10 million a year with only 7,000 subscribers.

Duping advertisers Despite that meager number, I would hand out a media kit claiming a circulation of 165,000. Surprisingly, no advertiser ever questioned the figure. Perhaps they were also acutely aware that it was totally groundless. “We are dying like frogs in slowly boiling water,” Youngjin Oh, then the newspaper’s managing editor, would say. Despite Oh’s pessimism, the company’s ad sales were rising 20 percent a year. The company’s revenue was growing so fast that it happily paid every employee a bonus worth one month’s salary. Many other local


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dailies were also generating more money than ever. So how did the old newspaper maintain double-digit revenue growth in the digital age? Did it discover a new lucrative business model or start generating extra cash through online and mobile ad sales?

Making money online The English daily was spending far more money than it was earning online. Compared to costs of tens of thousands of dollars a month for its eight dedicated servers and several full-time employees, the company’s new media division was making merely $500 a month through Google AdSense. To be sure, Google was paying more generously than other legitimate ad networks. But the Korea Times’ website traffic, which had about 35,000 unique visitors daily, barely earned enough to offset its spending another $500 a month to boost its articles on Facebook. Most articles had fewer than 1,000 views. Over 90 percent of total traffic came from sensational Korean-language clickbait that the English-language daily would put on Naver, the country’s largest portal site. So how did the new media team make money? Occasionally, not-so-digitally savvy advertisers including the Seoul government would pay $2,000 a month to place a banner without properly assessing the effectiveness of their online media campaign.

But the main sources of the company’s online ad sales revenue come from fishy, sensational ads, which promote suspicious sexual enhancement drugs, high-interest loans and other dubious products. They dole out up to 100 times more than Google AdSense or other legitimate ad networks.

Media’s open secret Every month, Korea Times reporters had to propose advertorial ideas to desk editors. One-page advertorials and advertisements sold for $5,000$10,000. Most of them blindly promoted government policies or praised corrupt conglomerate CEOs and their good deeds to the community. After I quit the Korea Times, one senior reporter proposed an advertorial about “New Exploration, Social Enterprise,” a book that SK chairman Taewon Chey published in late 2014 while still serving a four-year jail term for embezzlement. The book, which called for business favors from the government in return for solving social problems, was an apparent attempt by the disgraced businessman to win the favor of the media ahead of President Park Geunhye’s plan to pardon some convicts. Nevertheless, many media outlets were eager to release Chey, head of the country’s third-largest company, from prison to improve their ad revenues. Chey received his second presidential pardon last year.

Anonymous sponsors Samsung was a major sponsor, chipping in about $86,000 for one article series on the controversial territory of Dokdo along with the Northeast Asian History Foundation, which usually paid some $30,000 a year for such content. Oddly, Samsung did not want any credit for it. When I organized the country’s first Multicultural Youth Awards for the newspaper in late 2012, I learned that big companies often had more to lose by placing ineffective advertisements in the Korea Times.

Some sponsors of the multicultural awards even demanded their ads be removed from the newspaper despite them paying the full rate or more. They did not want other publications to find out about the ad deal, as competitors would call them immediately and hassle them until they received the same ad. But as companies needed proof that their money was spent, they would ask to run the ads only in the paper’s first edition that would be delivered to them and to a small number of people living far from Seoul. The Korea Times generated about $600,000 in sponsorship revenue from just one multicultural event, but kept

facto mouthpiece of the tech giant and ran a series of special articles in favor of Samsung. Words from international experts were taken out of context to defend Samsung by the paper’s tech reporter, who was willing to pump out biased articles so everyone would receive their paycheck on time and he could continue to frequent room salons with Samsung sponsors.

Journalism’s crossroads

Such morally and legally questionable paid content is ironically dubbed a “special article.” Nearly all local journalists are aware of the ugly truth about special articles, but very few are willing to talk about it as it directly affects their job security and paycheck. I cannot remember any Korea Times reporter who had the courage to demand their editor to remove their bylines from advertorials or label such articles as sponsored content. The first advertorial I had to write was about Jaeoh Lee, then head of the AntiCorruption and Civil Rights Commission and President Lee Myungbak’s right-hand man. Instead of my editor, the ACRC’s PR spokesman gave me specific instructions on which photos to use and dictated how I should run the “special” story. When President Lee appointed Youngran Kim, the country’s first female Supreme Court Justice and a national hero who proposed the country’s new anticorruption law, I thought the paid content deals would end. But I was wrong. The practice of publishing articles for money was so prevalent in the industry that one PR representative from the ACRC once called me directly and told me to run an article on credit, on the condition that the agency would pay the following year when the new ad budget was approved. How can the media escape corruption when the anticorruption agency itself pays for news articles?

I was one of the 70 staff members of The Korea Times who kept silent about the ethical and legal breaches of the newspaper, which makes about $10 million a year with only 7,000 subscribers.

most of the money despite its promise to use it for underprivileged multicultural children. It was sickening to witness the company trying to set up its own charity to launder corporate donations and find an NGO that was willing to funnel the money for the newspaper. When the legal battle over patents heated up between Samsung and Apple, the Korea Times became a de

Extortion from advertisers and public deception will not last much longer. News outlets, including the Korea Times, must be well aware that they need to find an alternative revenue source to survive. The Korea Times has been an invaluable asset for nurturing new journalists and covering important historical and social issues, including the atrocities of the Korean War, the military government’s brutal crackdown at the 1980 Gwangju Uprising and the continuing abuse of multicultural workers. The newspaper has also served as a great platform for its readers and columnists to share their insight and views about society. Some of its brightest journalists fought hard against the government’s censorship on top of the company’s internal censorship. I have declined offfers of raises and promotions to rejoin the Korea Times as I do not have the remedy to improve the aging company’s financial status and journalistic standards. However, I would gladly step in if the company’s decision-makers showed genuine willingness to improve its ethical standards and made greater efforts to serve the public’s interest. I hope the Korea Times and other traditional media outlets find the support to better adapt to this fastchanging media environment and play the critical role of being a voice for the voiceless once again, instead of being the mouthpiece of those with power and money.

Taehoon Lee is CEO of media startups Newsbacker and The Korea Observer in Seoul, South Korea. He is also the executive producer of N3Con 2016 and head of AAJA Asia’s Seoul subchapter. He can be reached at lee@koreaobserver.com.

New. Now. Next Media Conference May 27-29, 2016 45


Getting sauce from the source As journalism evolves with technology, remember the fundamentals Guest column by Jay Hartwell


have learned one thing from watching journalism transform from the Linotype machine of my parents’ weekly to the IBM Selectric used as a reporter in Honolulu to the internet sites deploying journalists today: Change will keep coming. However, developing and maintaining sources remain the foundation for journalism. For the past 19 years, I have advised students reporting and running the media program at the University of Hawaii, whose daily tabloid has evolved into a weekly, a website and social media accounts, with its @kaleoohawaii social and video posts getting the most attention. Freshmen think one email interview is sufficient to get enough “quotes” to cut and paste into a story. Some of my graduates encounter this in professional newsrooms, where there are multiple

deadlines: for tweets, Facebook, Instagram posts and Web updates while monitoring feeds from multiple apps and using others to verify user-generated content before filing for that night’s broadcast or the next day’s print. Tomorrow’s journalists need to learn how to develop sources who can make the difference in stories that have the chance to move our communities forward. Developing sources takes time and paths that may not get you where you need to go today. Poynter and the International Journalists’ Network present these suggestions: Embrace the small talk. Be available. Tell sources about your interests. Be honest. Become an expert. Admit when you’re not. Remain curious. Share control.

After publication, follow up. How does this happen for a reporter new to a beat or city? Not by email or telephone. Before you meet a source, you should know as much as you can about that person and their interests. When you walk into a source’s office, the most important person is the person in front of the source’s door. Introduce yourself. Note the photos. Ask about the people in them. Establish a connection and nurture it every time you walk into that space, because the assistant controls access. Show genuine interest (because every person has a story worth telling). Share something about yourself. The same advice goes for the source, but that person also needs you to become an expert so you don’t waste their time and can share information when appropriate. That means keeping yourself informed about the beat by following the range of sites and publications that address it. Staying abreast of all the things going on in your community will enable you to see connections between issues and people that others do not. In a lecture at UH about his 1973 paper “The Strength of Weak Ties,” Mark Granovetter pointed out that while regular sources are vital, they form a network known to each other. Weak ties or unused sources are less likely to know one another and more likely to connect us to circles beyond our own. When we utilize more weak ties, we become more aware of other ideas going on in our communities. John Geraci learned these lessons after failing to help the New York Times create a new product. His advice: “Open the doors. Let the light stream in. Get out of the building. Interact ... The new value is not inside – it’s out there, at the edges of the network.”

Jay Hartwell is the faculty adviser to the student media program at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.


N3 Magazine Issue 1


Be productive in cyberspace Easy apps to jumpstart any journalist’s mobile productivity By Channy Lee


rom aggregation to interpretation and communication, productivity is essential for news delivery. Thanks to digital technology, there is an endless number of innovative tools for each step of the process. Here is a snapshot of the top online and mobile tools delivering the best of the digital age to journalists.

Mobile multimedia

Social media monitoring

Nuzzel This digital tool for Web and mobile creates a personalized news feed of Twitter users of choice. These feeds are also shared among Nuzzel users, allowing users to browse and search through different feeds. An alternative to Nuzzel is Buzzsumo, which presents the most shared stories on social media when users search for a certain topic.

Snapseed, FilMic Pro Even in the physical production of multimedia content, digital tools play a helpful role. FilMic Pro delves into the area of sophisticated filming work with a mobile device, with camera control and functionality way beyond the basic features of iOS, while Snapseed pushes limitations of editing photos on mobile devices to Photoshop-level results.

Contact management

Group task management

Trello Beyond the realm of conversations, Trello can serve as an effective task management tool. A Trello board visually represents how smaller tasks constitute a project with cards and lists that are updated real-time to track progress, while allowing members to easily collaborate by interacting directly through the board.

Rapportive Conventionally, journalists had to search for contacts and record them individually. Today, this Chrome extension reduces the workload by showing users the LinkedIn profiles of their contacts embedded right in their email correspondence.

Group communication Slack When a task requires group collaboration, this messaging app does away with email exchanges and keeps team members informed and engaged by centralizing communication. The app enables numerous forms of conversation, including open channels for specific topics, private channels for sensitive information and direct messages between team members.



With information aggregated through such means, Evernote can be utilized to construct and organize stories. A file cabinet in digital form, the app archives notes, images, audio recordings and any other file and syncs them to an account for the user to access from any device. It also offers features for streamlining and organizing information, such as tags and searchable text.

New. Now. Next Media Conference May 27-29, 2016 47


AAJA Asia Digital Journalism Student Award 2016

AAJA Asia and Google recognize skills for the digital era By Billy Wong


s mobile technology has infiltrated every part of our lives, it is more important than ever for journalists to master digital skills to reach the widest audience and maximize the impact of their stories. AAJA Asia and Google aim to provide a platform for prospective and eager future journalists to make use of multimedia to tell stories that matter in their regions. This award enables students to put their knowledge and skills into practice and gear up for future careers in the industry. The AAJA Asia chapter did not impose any specific parameters on what constitutes good digital journalism in the hope of encouraging undergraduate students to unleash creativity in their reporting. The judges were more than impressed by the submissions.

The winner The judging panel gives the 2016 AAJAAsia Digital Journalism Student Award to Bobby Chan and his team from the University of Hong Kong for “Street Wonder — Survival Stories of Asian Street Children in Hong Kong.” This outstanding multimedia project tells the story of ethnic minority street children in Hong Kong (streetwonder. org). In this rare glimpse, the team documented the challenges for these children who live in a neighborhood where sex trade and drug trafficking

are rampant. The project also helps illustrate how the lack of parental care contributes to the rise in juvenile delinquencies and high school dropouts. With the help of text, photos, videos, graphics and audio podcasts, “Street Wonder” also sheds light on the challenges facing ethnic minority families in Hong Kong and how the limited opportunities available for nonChinese speakers deter the youngsters from reaching their full potential. “This entry was an eye-opening account of a story little reported on in Hong Kong. Not only did it do what journalists do best, which is to cast light on darkness, this team effectively did so by allowing digital tools and video to let subjects tell their own story,” said Angie Lau, one of the judges of the award. Congratulations to Bobby and his team! Thanks to the generous support from Google, the winners receive a $1,000 cash prize and a trip to the Global Editors Summit 2017. AAJA Asia expresses gratitude to the judges for their time and dedication in nurturing aspiring journalists. On the judging panel: Angie Lau, Bloomberg Television; Chiew Farn Chung, ClassDo Inc.; Elaine Ramirez, freelance journalist; Jay Hartwell, University of Hawaii; Wendy Tang, technology reporter; and Yuri Nagano, Mergermarket Group.

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