Overwhelming Trivia in the Corridors of the Legislative Council

Hui Wai-yin - Political beat reporter

'Hello, can you write something about the reporting of the Legislative Council for The Journalist?'

'I beg your pardon! What news you can find in Legco?'

'How about writing on the changes in news coverage of the Legislative Council?

'......OK. I hope I won't be criticized for that.'

This explains why I am writing this.

Every Wednesday, reporters gather in the corridor outside the chamber of the Legislative Council building. They group around any legislator who they think will give them some newsy titbits. I do not have any gripes about my news gathering work in Legco. As a matter of fact, I have no expectation of getting meaningful news in this corridor.

Three to four years ago, reporters could dig up news by chatting with legislators. Nowadays, you hardly find any newsy ideas from the corridor. You can only get the gut reaction to news events from legislators or uninteresting soft news by hanging about the corridor the whole day.

If there is a chance that a real news story idea will come from a chat in the corridor, it must be a lucky day, like winning the jackpot, for me. Some legislators and senior reporters sigh about the lack of serious discussion of serious issues between reporters and legislators these days.

Why? Is it because the quality of legislators have deteriorated or the turnover of reporters is too fast, due to low salaries in the media industry, so that there are less experienced journalists around to ask meaningful questions?

In the past legislators were more open to being challenged. They would answer difficult and serious questions and discuss current issues with reporters. Sometimes they would tell you how the government or other politicians thought about these issues. Through relentless effort, reporters could dig out good news stories from talking with the legislators.

Gone are those days. Now, some legislators do not talk about serious matters even when you ask three or four times. These legislators' talent for talking will only be seen when they crack jokes or talk trivia. Jokes have become the only topic of exchange between reporters and legislators. This vicious circle goes on and on, they only talk about traveling, shopping and eating but no serious discussions. I wonder whether some legislators just want to be the 'most popular legislator' in the soft news column in the newspapers.

Political reporters do not stay long, usually quitting after two or three years. The majority of political news reporters are so green that some legislators have sighed, "how can I discuss issues with them if they don't know anything noteworthy?'

I don't think the legislators discriminate against fresh reporters. Their frustration is understandable when they initiate a serious discussion and find that most reporters do not understand or have no reaction. Their initiative to discuss serious matters gradually fades away.

One legislator complained about taking pains to explain an issue from A to Z every time he meets with reporters who have no background of the issues. He further remarked that "why should I be so serious if the reporters could not understand or are not interested in hard news?"

If the honorable legislators do not change their way, I only hope the news media takes the lead in bringing about changes. One way would be for media bosses to raise salaries of senior reporters to keep them in the news industry.

If there were more senior journalists, there would be role models for the fresh reporters. Also, there would be more senior reporters that legislators could trust and thus more meaningful interaction.

At the very least, I hope fresh reporters can make more preparations, speak out and ask questions. Ask, even if the question is stupid, as it can show your enthusiasm and interest in this job.