Faculty Q&A: Former co-director J. Breiner says it's "hard to overestimate the value offered" by GBJ

Interview by Ingrid Gustafsson, Ninni Saga Svensson, Wen Xuanying and Lina Chen

James Breiner: "You have really great instructors with lots of international experience."

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James Breiner


Academic titles Visiting Professor

Co-director of the Global Business Journalism program, 2011 to 2013


GBJ courses taught Multimedia Business Journalism, Feature Writing

Educational background

  • B.A. English, College of Wooster (Ohio), 1973

  • M.A., English Literature, University of Connecticut, 1975.

International training and experience

  • Special projects editor, Columbus Dispatch

  • President and publisher of the weekly Baltimore Business Journal

  • Trained editors on newsroom leadership and lectured at universities through Knight International Journalism Fellowship, Bolivia

  • Editorial consultant on a business weekly, Crain’s Manchester Business, UK

  • Director of Center for Digital Journalism in Guadalajara, Mexico

  • Visiting professor at Instituto Tecnologico de Monterrey, Mexico

  • Visiting professor at Universidad de Navarra, Pamplona, Spain

  • Author of the blog News Entrepreneurs

Q&A


Q: What are the qualities Tsinghua has to offer to international students who wish to get a master’s degree in Global Business Journalism?

A: First off, you have really great instructors with lots of international experience. But another important aspect is experiencing the business culture every day, through personal contacts with Chinese and foreign businesspeople and economists. You can follow the big business stories more closely and understand how Chinese companies and economic policy are making waves around the world.

Q: What is most special or unique about the Global Business Journalism program at Tsinghua University?

A: The opportunity to meet the people who are steering the companies and the economic policies of China is invaluable. China has been the fastest growing major economy in the world for years and is arguably the biggest economy in the world (as measured by purchasing power parity), so you are in the middle of what's happening. The mix of students energized me and my teaching, and I am sure it has affected the other professors in the program.

Q: What special skills and cultural experiences do international students bring to Tsinghua?

A: The variety of languages and experiences enriches the group projects that students produce. Each one brings different experiences and can draw on media from their native country to add nuance to their reporting projects. Each student can open doors for other students.

Q: What is the benefit to Global Business Journalism students of learning both from Chinese and international professors with both academic and practical experience?

James Breiner: "The Bloomberg terminals available to students give them access to one of the world's biggest databases of business and economic data."

A: Journalists often undervalue academic research on their field, which is a mistake. There is plenty of academic research that can help students with ideas for developing the industry and the profession for the future. As someone who has worked for many years as a journalist and now more than a decade in academic circles, I can see the value of applying this research to find solutions to some of the biggest problems in the industry (collapsed business models) and the profession (journalists have to work with marketers to know their audiences in order to serve them better). Journalists can help bring academic research to new audiences.

Q: How does Global Business Journalism teach students about the latest tools in digital journalism and communication?

A: Today, journalism that matters is making better use of data to illuminate old problems and find new solutions. The Bloomberg terminals available to students give them access to one of the world's biggest databases of business and economic data. This is more than many conventional newspapers and TV outlets have. All news media today are multimedia, and the program's focus on developing multimedia skills helps them tell stories in surprising and innovative ways, for example with interactive maps and graphics, and audio and video clips to enrich text-based storytelling.

Q: Do you have any other thoughts about the Global Business Journalism program?

A: There are very few university programs in business journalism, let alone a master's program that focuses on the global economy. When you add to the mix the fact that it immerses students in what was once an inwardly focused, poor country that has transformed itself into a global economic powerhouse, it's hard to overestimate the value offered. My own teaching and writing have been enriched by the teaching experience.


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