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South China Morning Post: 11 August 1998


In a new Hongkong-based venture, international trainee journalists - including from the South Pacific - have won a chance to display work to a wide readership.

By YANG WAHN HEW in Hongkong

ONLINE NEWSPAPER Cyber-Times, launched two weeks ago, provides a forum for students around the world interested in journalism and communications.

The project was funded by a Government teaching and development fund grant, which was obtained by Barry Low, City University associate professor.

Editor Claudine Hyland said Cyber-Times was not a university newspaper, due to the global nature of its contributors and articles.

The project does not use City University equipment, and articles can be submitted by anyone studying in fields related to journalism.

Cyber-Times was a means of bringing important issues from different localities to a wider audience, she said.

"The typical university newspaper focuses on provincial and local affairs, and is read by a limited audience. With Cyber-Times, contributors will be forced to consider that they are writing for an international audience."

Ms Hyland said the project would complement, not supplement, normal university newspapers.

Academics held positive views about the project.

Stephen Quinn, a journalism lecturer and director at Deakin University in Australia, said: "It is a great opportunity for Australian journalism students to get published in another environment and country."

David Robie, senior lecturer and coordinator of journalism for the University of the South Pacific, based in Fiji, said the project was a "welcome catalyst to motivate students into taking online inititatives."

Initial publicity efforts have targeted universities.

Amber Matthews, Cyber-Times webmaster, said people from institutions worldwide - including Europe, Africa, the United States and the South Pacific - had been contacted. Most had responded positively to the idea, although official responses were slow, she said.

Mr Quinn and Mr Robie expressed the need for more exposure and input from the academic community. Mr Quinn said that many ideas had foundered due to a lack of publicity, while Mr robie noted thatalthough several other journalism programmes had expressed interest in the project, they had yet to contribute material.

He said that while the journalism programme at the University of the South Pacific would encourage students to contribute to the project, a lack of knowledge in institutions about the Internet as a medium could limit its potential.

Ms Hyland hoped word-of-mouth and official publicity efforts would spread news of the newspaper.

"Initially, the flow of articles will be slower than it could be, especially since most students are currently on vacation. Things should start picking up around September and October."

As the site receives more articles and requirements for inclusion become more stringent, she hoped the universities would improve the standard of work being submitted.

Writing for the newspaper also should provide students with experience in the field of Internet writing, which has a different style from newspaper journalism.

Story categories will span the areas of technology, communities, culture and the environment. Cyber-Times will use several techniques to make articles suit the medium better, including the use of length limitations and a layout that will facilitate easy browsing and access to stories.

"We are initially going to be providing only articles due to the need to consider those with less well-equipped computers," Ms Matthews said.

In the future, Cyber-Times hopes to implement more and different types of media.

"Authors are encouraged to contribute extra material with their stories," Ms Matthews said. "We will include media such as graphics, and at a later stage we may even include RealAudio and RealVideo."

  • Yang Wahn Hew is a technology writer for the South China Morning Post.
  • Copyright 1998 South China Morning Post and Asia-Pacific Network. This document is for educational and personal use only.

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