Kelly Furnas judges journalism competition in Shanghai

The lecturer in the School of Communications served as the lead judge for the 2019 Youth Observation Contest, a student competition organized by the Journalism Education Association of China.

Kelly Furnas, a lecturer in the Journalism Department, traveled to Shanghai on Oct. 7 to serve as the lead judge for the 2019 Youth Observation Contest, a journalism competition for Chinese high school students.

In the months leading up to the Shanghai event, Furnas worked with Chinese high school students, critiquing and judging drafts of their written reports. Photo courtesy of Journalism Education Association of China

The competition is run by the Journalism Education Association of China, which provides educational opportunities in the field of communications for Chinese students who plan to attend college outside of the country. JEA China is an affiliate of the U.S.-based Journalism Education Association, for which Furnas serves as the organization’s global engagement director.

Hundreds of students worked for nearly a year on investigative reports about a social topic of their choosing. The competition culminated with the event in Shanghai on Oct. 7, when the top 11 teams presented public speeches about their projects.

“I can’t begin to articulate how proud the judges were of the students’ work,” Furnas said. “We were all so impressed with their language and presentation skills, but what really blew me away was the thoughtfulness and passion behind the topics they chose to investigate.”

Judges and students who participated in the 2019 Youth Observation Contest on Oct. 7 in Shanghai, China, gather together during the event. Nearly 80 teams of high school students competed in the monthslong competition, with the top 11 teams presenting public speeches about their investigative projects. Photo courtesy of Journalism Education Association of China

Students tackled social issues such as educational funding, the rise of artificial intelligence, living conditions for migrant workers, internet bullying and hospital conditions in underdeveloped areas of China. The winning team from Ivygate International High School Chengdu investigated the struggles between ethnicity and nationality among second-generation immigrant teenagers.

Furnas had worked with the students over the past six months critiquing and judging drafts of their written reports. Other judges joining him during the event in Shanghai included Zhu Xiaotong, deputy director of Shanghai Media Group; Deng Jianguo, professor of journalism at Fudan University; and Qian Jin, professor of journalism at Shanghai International Studies University. Furnas has previously written about journalism education among Chinese high school students for MediaShift and College Media Review.

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Work has already begun on the 2020 competition. Now in its fifth year, Furnas and other contest organizers hope to see even more participation among Chinese high school students.

“I think it speaks volumes about these students’ commitment to their communities and to their education that they would spend so many hours on an extracurricular project,” Furnas said. “I can’t wait to see what new discoveries and stories they share in the future.”

Furnas serves as the faculty mentor to The Pendulum, the newspaper of the Elon News Network.