Proven journalist sees Penn State doctoral program as valuable opportunity

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- A reporter with two decades of journalism experience under her belt — which includes covering major events such as the wars in Afghanistan, Gaza, Iraq and Libya, as well as the tsunami in Indonesia and earthquakes in China and Japan — now finds herself in the middle of Pennsylvania.

Rose Luqiu Luwei, a journalist from Hong Kong who has been only been in the United States a handful of times, isn’t here reporting on an event, though.

She’s here to study. And the accomplished journalist — one of Penn State’s newest doctoral students in the College of Communications — decided to make the trip overseas to see if she can find a way to spark change. She’s especially interested in the government-regulated Chinese media outlets.

“If the information process (in China) was disturbed or intervened by the government, do we have any ways to stop this problem?” said Luqiu. “I think the media should have some role in social change and democratization. For the past years, I just delivered information, some opinions, to my audience. I have a lot of fans and followers on social media. But, the past few years, the government has some strategies to stop the communication of the information. So, I need to find some new ways.”

Because media outlets are regulated by the Chinese government, communication is controlled, sometimes prohibiting journalists from telling the facts. In addition, things like social media and blogs are also regulated.

Being a reporter in Hong Kong (different from mainland China with its own passport and monetary system), Luqiu has a bit more freedom. Journalistically, it is more similar to the United States than China. Hong Kong media outlets are much more critical of the Chinese government and can broadcast freely, as long as it focuses on the local audience. Anything that is intended to be broadcast into China, though, is censored.

But, while Hong Kong is supposed to have freedom of the press protected by its Bill of Rights and media outlets are much less restricted in Hong Kong, Luqiu said the media has become increasingly more censored and regulated, with self-censorship becoming an issue and the Chinese government finding ways to intervene.

“For (China), some crisis or something negative, (the Chinese government) controls how it gets portrayed,” said Luqiu. “People have a distorted depiction of the outside world. That’s the problem. It’s like a double-edged sword. On the one side, it’s good for the government for stability, but on the other side I think it will be out of control.”

While Luqiu has worked for Phoenix Television in Hong Kong since 1997, she knows what it’s like being in mainland China all too well, spending her first 24 years there.

Despite knowing she wanted to be a journalist since the age of 10, she studied philosophy as an undergraduate at Fudan University. At that time, each Chinese city usually only had one TV station, so the job market was small, and journalists weren’t able to report freely. So, upon graduation, she became an auditor with an accounting company.

Then, at the age of 24, Luqiu and her family moved to Hong Kong. There, she opened a newspaper and found an ad for a local company that was looking for a copy editor. She applied, and the next day was offered the job. That was 1995, and the start of her career in journalism.

Over the last 20 years, Luqiu has written books, was the first Chinese woman to cover the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, became one of the first bloggers in China in 2005, was a awarded a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard University in 2007, and became one of the first users of “Weibo,” a Chinese equivalent of Twitter.

Luqiu started blogging and social media use in order to try to communicate more freely as it took time for the Chinese government to figure out how to regulate those sites.

All of these things led to Luqiu’s decision to come to Penn State. Luqiu met College of Communications professor Bu Zhong at Hong Kong Baptist University, where she taught for seven years. Zhong, who was on sabbatical there, encouraged Luqiu to apply and introduced her to Dean Marie Hardin. Luqiu decided to give it a shot. She had been to the United States a couple times prior to enrolling, including a year at Harvard to study as part of the Nieman Fellowship.

Already just a few weeks into the fall semester, Luqiu is learning. She serves as a teaching assistant to professor C. Michael Elavsky and has noticed how teaching differs between Hong Kong and the United States and could see herself doing more teaching in the future.

“The thing is, you must know how to teach because my past experience of teaching is just sharing my experience,” said Luqiu. “I don’t think that’s enough to be a good teacher. I think (Professor Elavsky’s) style is different from undergraduate teaching in Hong Kong and also in mainland China. It has inspired me on how to teach.”

Last Updated September 21, 2015