Meet the Board
In the first of a new series, Kate Springer invites five Governors to wax poetic about all things FCC.
Our new Board of Governors took their seats in May, and on top of their usual tasks, they have the added responsibility of steering the FCC through a particularly challenging time. In the past two years, we’ve endured a triple whammy – the 2019 protests, National Security Law, and ongoing pandemic. So how are they navigating the choppy waters? In coming issues, we’ll pass the mic to each Board member so they can introduce themselves.
As a Life Correspondent Member, FCC President Keith Richburg is a familiar face at the club. The former Washington Post correspondent has been a member since moving to Hong Kong in 1995.
This is not his first rodeo as president: Keith held the reins in 1997 during the Handover. Back then, Keith recalls transforming the club into a media centre. “There was an enormous buzz – the club was just jam-packed with hundreds of journalists. It was the place to be.”
The American journalist says he never predicted he’d serve as president for a second time. “Both periods have been a time of transition – particularly when it comes to relationships with the government and China. I hope my experience can help us navigate the present challenges, among them COVID-19 restrictions.”
At the time of writing [September], the club is Type D, which means it can seat larger groups, stay open past midnight and host events for up to 100 people. It’s an outstanding achievement, he says, that should enable the club to improve its financial standing by the end of the year. “Despite financial challenges, I’m also really proud that the club has not laid off any staff since 2019.”
Naturally, Keith often fields questions about the club’s future. “Everybody is concerned about whether we’re going to be able to get the lease renewed. We are doing everything in our power to be good custodians of this heritage building, good employers, and responsible members of the community. I’m fairly confident that our landlords [the government] will also see it that way, too.”
He encourages members to get in contact: “Feel free to make suggestions, ask questions, provide ideas. And bring your friends to the club, and sign them up!”
THE FINE PRINT
Hometown: Detroit, Michigan, US
Tipple: A Malbec in the evening
Day job: Director of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre of the University of Hong Kong
Favourite dish: Chicken Vindaloo
Describe the FCC in three words: “Asia’s greatest bar”
Vision for the club: “I hope to get the club through this transition in good shape – a strong financial position, robust member lists, great events and maintaining our mission as a fierce defender of press freedom.”
Club Secretary, Correspondent Member Governor
Jennifer Hughes moved to Hong Kong with the Financial Times in 2012, where she embarked on a steep learning curve writing the Lex column about Asian companies – and also met her pilot husband. “We used to joke that it would be his job to get me cheap flights and mine to get him cheap drinks at the FCC.”
Marital jests apart, they both loved the club, and after a while Jennifer felt she should take on a greater role. “I wanted to give something back and the obvious place to get involved was the Board.”
Jennifer is currently Club Secretary, and sits on the professional, membership, finance and constitutional committees, contributing her expertise where it is most needed. “Take finance, for example. I know we’re a press club first and foremost, but if we cannot pay our bills, we will not even be that, so having a solid financial basis is important. And I’m a finance, business journalist so I don’t mind that nerdy stuff.”
On top of this, Jennifer is also leading a project to refresh the club’s charity outreach. “We’re looking for charities that the FCC can work with. We’re not necessarily going to give away tons of money – we don’t have tons of money – but we want to see what we could do for community organisations in Hong Kong. So we are really looking for suggestions from members.”
Like just about everybody, Jennifer regards the club as an institution. “This isn’t the easiest time to be navigating as a press club in Hong Kong, but the FCC is held in high regard and it’s got such a rich history. I don’t think I’ve ever brought guests here who have not been impressed. And the more I’m involved, the more I’m impressed with what we’ve managed to get out of this space.”
THE FINE PRINT
Hometown: Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England
Day job: Columnist for Reuters Breakingviews
Tipple: White wine. Or rose, Or…
Favourite dish: Fish Goa
Describe the FCC in three words: “Simply the best”
Vision for the club: “A forum for great debate. With the world’s best bar.”
Second Vice President
Tim joined the FCC in 1998. “I had spent plenty of time in the club with friends, including Handover night. I had committed to staying in Hong Kong long-term, so being part of the FCC seemed the right thing.”
Over the years, the club has led Tim to great friendships and professional opportunities. “When people say their favourite place in Asia is the FCC, I feel quite proud. Getting to know so many people in the media has been a huge advantage – and I like to think some of them have benefited from having easy access to someone who works in a specialised field like shipping.”
He has collaborated with several photojournalists, including Basil Pao and Kees Metselaar. And he met the producers at RTHK, who hired him to host the Macau Grand Prix coverage – fulfilling a lifelong dream.
Since the FCC has given Tim so much, he wanted to give something back. “There is a lot of heavy lifting, but being able to support the staff, keep the FCC’s values and hopefully ensure a great future for our club makes it worth the effort.”
Tim says Associate members are a vital part of the club, and he strives to ensure their voices are heard. In addition, as Treasurer, Tim leads the Finance Committee keeping a strong balance sheet, maintaining the reserves and surviving COVID-19 restrictions.
“The last couple of years have been a real challenge. Coming through this whole episode without placing any additional burdens on members, many of whom have taken a hit financially during COVID-19, and protecting our staff’s jobs could be considered an accomplishment. It was a team effort.”
Now that the FCC has been able to restart events, Tim believes the club’s reserves can be rebuilt. “I hope we can replenish the coffers, build up our membership and continue to be the vibrant social hub we all know and love. I want the FCC to be a part of my life forever.
“Speaking as a businessman, if Hong Kong wants to remain ‘Asia’s World City’, it needs a vibrant and independent media, and the FCC will play an important role.”
THE FINE PRINT
Hometown: Hong Kong, but originally Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England
Day job: Chairman, Mandarin Shipping
Tipple: Correspondent’s Choice red wine
Favourite dish: The Chinese menu’s chicken and shallots
Describe the FCC in three words: “My second home”
Vision for the club: “I see the FCC continuing its critical role of being an independent, objective and balanced platform to hear the views of all parties, no matter what side of the spectrum they belong.”
Kristie Lu Stout
Correspondent Member Governor
Kristie became a member of the FCC a few years after joining CNN in 2001. “I joined for the fabulous curry and for the camaraderie forged in a world-renowned press club.”
The CNN anchor says she values the FCC’s events, luncheon talks, conferences and panels, as well as casual, spontaneous chats with friends over coffee or cocktails.
As a member, Kristie has moderated panels, given speeches and served as a panellist at several events and conferences. “For almost two decades, I have had the opportunity to share my views on digital transformation, misinformation and gender equality while speaking and learning alongside my peers on how we cover major events in the region.”
In 2020, Kristie was inspired by the club’s efforts to attract early-career journalists, visiting reporters and freelancers, and decided to run for the Board.
In her second term, Kristie is an active member of the Professional Committee, where she helps organise speaking events and panels. She also serves as a co-convener of the committee, which brings powerful exhibits to the Van Es Wall.
“While the focus of the exhibitions is usually on Asia, we also feature landmark current events outside the region as well as historical retrospectives. The exhibitions revolve every month and are open to the general public.”
As an example, she points to the mind-bending scenes of the social media phenomenon @SurrealHK, which attracted a record number of visitors to the club.
“When pandemic restrictions are further relaxed, I will help organise the club’s Journalism Day conference.” She adds that she hopes to highlight the work of younger journalists and media colleagues who work behind the scenes. “Practical workshops on new media tools and storytelling techniques will also be on offer for mid-career and veteran journalists to refresh and reboot their skills.”
THE FINE PRINT
Hometown: Monterey Peninsula, California, US
Day job: Anchor/Correspondent, CNN International
Tipple: Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir
Favourite dish: Palak paneer
Describe the FCC in three words: “Convivial, curious and cool”
Vision for the club: “The FCC will remain a world-renowned press hub and will continue to earn plaudits as a centre of elevated conversation for the media, business and diplomatic communities in Hong Kong.”
Correspondent Member Governor
The night he touched down in Hong Kong in February 2016, Dan Strumpf made a beeline for Lower Albert Road. “I came to Hong Kong sight unseen, and my editor took me out to the FCC the very first night. I remember we got a whole spread of Indian curries, hung out at the bar. I was taken by the whole vibe of the place.”
That warm introduction motivated Dan to join and, at first, it was primarily a social place. “The club is a respected establishment, so being able to take guests there was a huge perk. And it felt like a second home.”
He was looking for a way to contribute to the club, the city and broaden his network when he first ran for the Board in 2019. In his third term, Dan says he has been able to get to know members better and get more involved with the programming.
“If there was a spark, it was probably when I saw the fallout from the Andy Chan episode [when Beijing tried to block the independence activist from speaking at the FCC in 2018]. And I registered then that press freedom and freedom of speech are not always something that can be taken for granted.”
As a member of the Press Freedom, Professional, and Wall committees, Dan plans and coordinates events, drafts and reviews press freedom statements and curates exhibits for the Van Es Wall.
“As someone who is quite passionate and cares deeply about press freedom, the Press Freedom Committee was an obvious one for me to be involved in. And as a journalist, it’s my job to talk to lots of people. So sometimes I can invite those people to speak at the club – it’s a win-win-win situation when that works out.”
Since the national security law took effect in June 2020, Dan has taken a leading role in coordinating the club’s public position on current events impacting press freedom. “Hong Kong is going through a very unique moment, right now. We’re in uncharted waters in a lot of ways, and it’s important for the club to have a voice and be vocal on the issues that matter to us, which is press freedom. We have to be true to ourselves as a club, and we have an obligation to speak out. We have a special voice in the city.”
THE FINE PRINT
Hometown: Syracuse, New York, US
Day job: Reporter, The Wall Street Journal
Tipple: A pint of Tsing Tao, or a gin martini
Favourite dish: Chicken in a clay pot
Describe the FCC in three words: “Full of character”
Vision for the club: “At the end of the day, we’re a press club that stands up for freedom of the press and free speech. I hope we continue to stand by these principles in the long run.”
You don’t have to be on the Board to join a committee. From events to dining, press freedom to communications, there are plenty of ways to support the club.
Professional Committee: Ideal for the curious and well-connected. Coordinates club speakers, press conferences and journalism events.
Finance Committee: A spreadsheet lover’s dream. Supervises the club’s accounts, investments, members’ accounts and budgets.
Constitutional Committee: Scrupulous but essential work. Turns the microscope on issues relating to the Club’s AoAs and rules.
Membership Committee: Social butterflies unite. Oversees membership applications, membership status changes, honorary memberships and drives.
F&B / House Committee: Gourmets with a knack for numbers. As the name suggests, this committee bolsters the club’s beating heart, from food prices to menus, international promos, wine tastings, and more.
Press Freedom Committee: Our moral compass. Monitors press freedom issues, issues statements and co-organises the annual Human Rights Press Awards.
Communications Committee: A linguistic playground. Supervises the quarterly production of The Correspondent, the FCC website, newsletters, branding and the archives.
Wall Committee: Visual storytelling at its best. Curates and coordinates our monthly Wall photo exhibits.
Charity Committee: Calling all empaths. Coordinates the FCC’s charitable activities and community involvement.
Interested in getting involved? Contact Joanne Chung ([email protected]) with a cover letter/CV outlining your relevant professional experience.