Media student gets a taste of Japanese journalism

5 March 2012

Madeleine King
Madeleine King was placed at Agence-France Presse in Tokyo for her Media and Communications internship

Madeleine King, a student in the Department of Media and Communications, has completed an exciting Fellowship with Agence-France Presse in Tokyo.

King's Fellowship was funded and supported primarily by the Australia-Japan Foundation (AJF), a subsidiary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and she says the foundation and representatives of the Australian Embassy were very helpful throughout the month-long placement.

"They briefed me about Japanese media and just general tips about Tokyo and issues in the news," she says. Along with this, the Embassy and the Foundation "gave me a fantastically detailed run-down of the Australia-Japan economic relationship."

Tokyo skyline Japan
Tokyo skyline, Japan

Madeleine's internship, available as a compulsory subject in the Arts (Media and Communications) degree, was a unique opportunity to immerse herself in another culture at the same time as applying the skills and knowledge she had gained in a practical sphere.

It is this practical element of her degree that Madeleine says has transformed her from a typical university student into someone ready to take on the workforce.

"It really does take a twenty minute deadline, the pressures of working at an international standard for a range of international clients to understand that eight hundred words really is only eight hundred words," she explains.

"Because of the nature of AFP, acting as an international wire service, their news needs to be up to the minute and there are always certain stories that need to be written," she says. Of course, there are some skills that simply cannot be taught in a lecture theatre, as Madeleine's experience shows.

"Being forced to conduct interviews over the phone (in Japanese) was definitely challenging," she says. "It's a small bureau, so the Japanese staff working for them were always busy. As a result, I couldn't call on their help for a lot for interviews."

"It forced me to be more independent and proactive in pursuing stories," she says.

This independence was further fostered by the ability to pursue her own stories within the press office, when not conducting the day-to-day business of attending press conferences and doing background research. This would often involve conducting interviews in Japanese, and eventually writing the stories with, as she says, "extensive edits from my editor!"

Aside from the practical experience the Fellowship offered her, Madeleine's work took her way out of her comfort zone, and arguably, out of a healthy zone.

"I went with two other reporters to Koriyama City, in Fukushima Prefecture - it's about 50km away from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plants on the very edge of the exclusion zone," she says. "It was absolutely freezing, snow blizzards all day and only minimal heating inside the local community centre we were in, but it was fascinating - and devastating - to hear the locals' stories."

In addition to offering a glimpse at another culture, Madeleine's Fellowship gave her the chance to use her skills in a professional setting, which is an opportunity that is invaluable to students.

"I'd say that it was the fellowship, as part of the degree, that has helped me to come to terms with the realities of journalism," she concludes.

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Contact: Kate Mayor

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