Bhutan prayer flags over a country landscape

From Bathurst to Bhutan and beyond: meet Andrew Denton and Kinley Dorji

The incredible impacts of two journalists from very different worlds
Andrew Denton and Kinley Dorji studied journalism together in Bathurst in the 1980s and have since made enormous contributions to the media and democracy landscapes in Australia and Dorji's home country of Bhutan. Hear them swap remarkable stories in this special Sydney Ideas event.

In the 1980s two fresh-faced, intellectually curious young men from vastly different worlds met at journalism college in Bathurst. One was Andrew Denton, the other, Dasho Kinley Dorji. Dorji was one of a handful of young men sent around the world by Bhutan's Fourth King to learn specific skills that would eventually lead to the country’s peaceful transition to a democracy.

Denton went on to become a celebrated comedian, and one of Australia’s most admired interviewers. Dorji returned to Bhutan, a closed country of about 700,000 people, where yogis lived in caves and Gross National Happiness was the measure of success. He started a newspaper, Kuensel, which was pivotal to Bhutan’s move into the Information Age.

Dorji helped this oral culture – where word of mouth was the primary form of communication – to evolve into a digitally connected democracy, where its people enjoy robust discourse in a thoroughly modern media landscape, fed by newspapers, television, Facebook, WeChat and Twitter.

Dorji was in Australia to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney. In this very special Sydney Ideas event Denton interviewed Dorji about Bhutan’s unique media landscape, the role of journalism in democracy, social media,Crazy Wisdom, Gross National Happiness, and more.

This event was held on Thursday 7 November at the University of Sydney.

The speakers

Kinley Dorji was Bhutan’s first trained journalist, the former managing director and editor-in-chief of Kuensel newspaper, and a former secretary of the Ministry of Information and Communications in the Royal Government of Bhutan. He completed a Master of Journalism at Columbia University and was chosen as one of eight “outstanding individuals” worldwide to be awarded a John S Knight Journalism Fellowship at Stanford University. 

He is a strong believer in Bhutan’s development philosophy of Gross National Happiness and follows "Crazy Wisdom" as a spiritual practice.

Andrew Denton has worked extensively in every medium except crayon, most notably as a comedian, Australian TV presenter, producer and interviewer and radio host. He describes himself as "too pretty for television and too ugly for radio" and lists his occupation on visa forms as “personality”. He counts Rupert Murdoch, Paul Keating and Germaine Greer amongst his favourite detractors.

Event image: Photo by Siriwan Srisuwan on Unsplash

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