Close encounters of a thrilling kind

Diana Chong - Intern, School of Journalism and Communication, CUHK

"Seeing is learning". It may sound too much like a cliché, but there is no better phrase to sum up my internship at the South China Morning Post.

I certainly learnt about the daily operations of a newspaper but, more important, I had a genuine encounter with society. So close that one could not be apathetic towards it.

Standing on high ground, I got the chance to examine a new policy; to talk with and question influential figures in Hong Kong; to explore the multifaceted social problems. From a mundane perspective, I met pop idols that millions of fans could only dream of doing; I enjoyed getaways to the Mainland and the islands and was treated to nice food.

Unlike colleagues who are shifting from beat to beat in other newspapers, I was not assigned to any specific beat. But thanks to the opportunities given by my editors I had a taste of various kinds of happenings, some that were even beyond the reach of a local news reporter.

From policies to accidents to launch of a new business, I was one of the first among my peers to get a close-up look. And then it was my job to explain them to the public. Can you feel the thrill I got from this “Understand, then help everyone to understand” process?

I even had the good fortune to work alongside reporters from the entertainment beat (unfortunately I was not able to distinguish if any of them was a paparazzi), and this experience corrected misimpressions I had of them. It lasted two long days, with about eight hours of waiting each day outside a luxurious hospital for information about an ailing tycoon. Sitting outside a hospital waiting endlessly is tiring enough, but a typhoon and the heavy rain aggravated the agony. Towards the middle of the afternoon I had lost my focus and whenever a member of the tycoon's family arrived I reacted slowly, not recalling who he or she was. But the entertainment reporters have this talent. They stayed alert for eight full hours; their eyes wide open all the time. As soon as they spotted a family car they knew which family member was inside and would simultaneously rush up to the vehicle for pictures and throw their questions. Who said entertainment reporters only know to fabricate stories? They are very knowledgeable and possess a sensitivity that not everyone has. My respect for them soared. Journalists are professionals. No matter whether we are covering politics, business or entertainment, we are specialists and we stand firm on our social positions to serve the public.

Let me tell you a secret. I told myself not to be a journalist when I got into Journalism and Communication major, not that I do not like this job but I am worried about the career prospects. But soon after I started working at the Post, I changed my mind.

Thanks for letting me to see how the society runs. And I have learnt a lot from this stint.