Learning to build our world with the pen

Tse Siu Lee - Intern, School of Journalism & Communication, CUHK
(Translated by Stephenie Ng)

There was a television advertisement that said: ‘Being an intern, one has to be everything -- However all the hard work would be forgotten when seeing someone read my article.' In real life the work of an intern contains none of the glory or beauty depicted on the screen. Nevertheless during the two months internship at Ming Pao I was simply felt giddy each time I saw what I had written in print after each interview. That energized me to work again the next day, and all the previous difficulties got pushed back behind my mind. This was journalism in reality.

Reflecting on those field training days sometimes make me feel ashamed of my poor interviewing skills. One time when working on the spot news beat, I was hesitated outside the hospital before making my approach to interview a family member of a person who had committed suicide by charcoal-burning. I had thought that asking questions of the family members would be in vain. Surprisingly, the family member gave me an answer, short though it was. I skipping back to report to my colleague but his instant reply was: “You should not leave in joy. It is impolite to the interviewee. Also it is not an exciting subject.' I was jolted awake by his words. From the very beginning I had been reminding myself to be considerate and yet I had violated this. One never stops acquiring knowledge through interviews.

Every day as an intern I kept learning about life. And almost every day brought a new surprise. Once I spent a whole day following the Vice Chancellor of an university to Nansha, Guangzhou for an interview. At the end of the day this was a story needing only 500 words to tell. On other occasions you meet people unwilling to answer questions. Sometimes this left me writing unsatisfactory stories that required heavy subbing. The most unforgettable story was a 300-word piece about a court case. This was due to the way it was completed. I juggled words but no matter how hard I tried it ended up unsatisfactory. As I lost myself in this effort, a senior colleague had come up behind me without my noticing it. Gently he tapped my shoulder and started to guide me bit by bit on the writing of those three hundred words.

A question often posed by colleagues and people in the field is: “Why do you want to be a journalist?” My usual answers included “The work of a journalist is interestingly diverse.” or “I don't want a boring job.” In fact, I have been asking myself the same question since I transferred to the School of Journalism and Communication last year. Simply thinking about this question did not help me to find the answer. Only during the internship, seeing the paper printed out every day made me feel real and wonderful. Every day a group of people bustle about out there who never stops investigating and writing and their work turns into a newspaper in people's hands. As it is so natural for readers to criticize and give a different perspective towards the media while reading the newspaper, internship allows me to witness the devotion of everyone has in the field.

The knowledge I obtained during my internship was superficial. However I truly sense that journalists do use their pens to build the world.