Barry Kalb (1943-2018)

Barry Kalb, a journalist with more than 30 years of experience, was a long-time lecturer at the JMSC. He spent nearly a decade teaching fundamental reporting and writing to hundreds of JMSC students before retiring in November 2014.

A mainstay of the MJ programme, Barry loved to share his enthusiasm for the journalism profession. “Being a journalist is the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” he told his students.

Barry joined the JMSC as an honorary lecturer in September 2008. He admitted that the idea of teaching had never occurred to him, especially “when I was a working hack, out in the field where the action was.” But he added: “I’ve had a wonderful 10 years at the JMSC.”

Barry, with Associate Prof Doreen Weisenhaus (left) and Alex Hoegberg (MJ 2013), at his retirement event in 2014

Barry with Prof Ying Chan at his retirement event in 2014

The “resident drill sergeant” was renowned for his “tough love” approach to students’ work, concurrently eliciting fear, gratitude and admiration. He brought his deep understanding of journalism and world politics to the classroom, where he insisted not only on good grammar but also accuracy and balance from all of his students.

He wrote “You Can Write Better English” to help non-native English speakers write better. The book, published in 2010, is still used as a “writing bible” at the JMSC. 

Barry started his career in 1967 at the Evening Star in Washington, DC. After eight years, he moved to Hong Kong in 1975, briefly for NBC News, and then as a staff correspondent for CBS News. In 1979, he joined Time magazine as Eastern Europe bureau chief, based in West Berlin, and subsequently moved to Rome, New York and back to Hong Kong.

Barry took a 14-year break from reporting to pursue entrepreneurial ambitions in Hong Kong, including running Il Mercato, a notable Italian restaurant in Central. In late 2002, he returned to journalism, as an editor at Voice of America’s Asia-Pacific bureau in Hong Kong.

He covered many major news events throughout his decades-long career, including the Watergate scandal in the United States; the deaths of Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, and Deng Xiaoping’s return to power in China; the beginning of the Solidarity movement in Poland; and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in Rome.

Even in his retirement, Barry still continued his association with HKU, running English-language boot camps for students. 

He died in Phuket, Thailand, on 19 December 2018, aged 75.

Barry delivering an English writing workshop for HKU staff in 2010

“Barry was a much loved and legendary teacher,” said Prof Ying Chan, then director of the JMSC, in a tribute in 2018. “He was both tough and kind, demanding but caring. He despised sloppy writing but would give it the most meticulous editing. He had given generations of students writing lessons for their lifetime.”