Perspective from the Post 80's Generation

Chong Hiu-yeung - General Secretary, HKJA.

[中文] The term 'post 80's generation' is heard everywhere these days. Do those from 'post 80's generation' in the Hong Kong media industry share same characteristics with the 'post 80's' people in the anti-Express Link groups? The Journalist held a focus group of post 80's reporters from different media outlets on 28th February, 2010 to ascertain views.

Ms Eva Chan
, instructor of the Journalism and Communication school of Chinese University of Hong Kong was the moderator.

Reporters who took part were:
Amy Wong, Commercial Radio News
Damon Pang, Radio Television of Hong Kong(English News)
Wai-ling Chan, Hong Kong Economic Journal
Tony Cheung, Asia Television News

The discussion lasted about one and a half hours. Here are some abstracts:

'Senior' Reporters with Three Years' Experience

Amy said at the beginning that she only represented herself and could not generalize her views as characteristic of 'post 80's reporters', which is a very broad group itself. What surprised her most was reporters with two to three year's working experience were treated as senior reporters. She found hardly any frontline reporters with more than three years working experience.

Wai-ling said that 'post 80's reporters' could be divided into two sub-groups, pre-1985 and post-1985. Many 'old' reporters leave the industry and vacancies were filled by fresh ones.
Pre-85 reporters have already become an 'older generation'.

Tony agreed with them. He once worked in Sing Pao for two years and was the fourth senior reporter there then.

They found with sigh that there are only fresh journalists and very senior news editors could be found in most Hong Kong media. The middle range, in terms of experience, was almost nonexistent.

Damon commented on the quality of 'post 85 reporters'. He found that some of them only followed orders of their supervisors. He quoted an extreme case in this regard. A new reporter did not even know who was Mr Chan Kam-lam, the DAB legislator and Mr Lee Win-tat, the Democratic Party legislator.

No Experience Needed to Cover NPC

Since there were no senior reporters around Eva wondered if it would be easier for 'post 80's reporters' to get promoted?

Wai-ling admitted that raw reporters had more chances to report big events, like a full session of the National People's Congress (NPC) and Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC). However, it was not the case in job promotion or salary increments.

She regrettably found that there were few senior reporters remaining in the industry from whom they could learn the ropes. 'Supervisors just tell you to ask questions and exchange name cards. That's all. With only six months experience, I had the chance to report NPC and CPPCC full session in Beijing.'

Amy said this was not good for the journalists or the industry. The senior colleagues in the news
room did not have time to teach them because their first priority was to fill the pages daily. Without models to learn from, she found it difficult to improve professionally.

Same News in Print and Electronic Media

All reporters taking part in the focus group complained about their hectic working schedule. Amy complained that she was preoccupied with daily assignments and could hardly squeeze in time for investigative reporting. Moreover, the government was too uncooperative to answer questions about very simple issues, such as the removal of unauthorized building works.

They were also in total agreement that the adoption by the print media of the copy and paste approach of the electronic media has become too common to ignore. Moreover, many senior staff in newspapers tended to believe the judgment of electronic media rather their own frontline colleagues. The electronic media followed up news from the newspapers and presented them as fresh news, to be followed up by the print media. So the news go in around in a circle. Amy said this made the news in newspapers and the electronic media look alike.

They hoped that managements would employ more reporters and allow reporters more time for their own investigative reporting.

After the Passion Came the Harsh Realities

Reporting is not a money-making career and all the participants began with salaries of around $8,000 to $9,000 per month. What has kept them in the industry?

Wai-ling said that reporting had been her dream career since teenage. Witnessing the procession held on 1 July 2003 against the enactment of the Article 23 of the Basic law, she was moved by the power of the media whose agenda dominated people's thought and create a strong public opinion. 'If the media is so powerful, being a reporter one should be able to push for social reform and change the society, right?'

But the reality turned out to be not as ideal as she had thought. Yet, she stayed in the media because she thought she could do better. She did not want to give up this chance. With passion and hope, she stayed the course against her father's wishes. He wanted her to be a teacher.

Amy's case is similar. The huge demonstration held on 1 July 2003 triggered her enthusiasm for work in the media. Also, she needed to deal with the pressure from her father. 'Since I was young, my family had high expectations of me because my school results were quite good.' She continued: 'My father is a civil servant and he strongly objected to my becoming a reporter. He was very disappointed with my decision and told me to work in the Government Information Services if I really want to work in media.' As with Wai-ling idealism eventually crashed. Still, she has stayed the course.

Issues of Public Interest

Damon felt that he was the lucky one because his parents let him pursue his goal without worrying too much about salary. 'I don't say I am great. A journalist is not a saint. I don't know what I can do if I quit the media industry. I like this job. At least I have the right to ask the officials questions. What I do is valuable and I don't want to sacrifice this for money.'

'How many reporters can follow the path of Yau Shing Mo? How many reporters can be deputy secretaries or political assistants? I only care how to do my work well everyday.' Damon recognized that reporter could not change the society but he had the chance to ask officials the right questions and hold them responsible on issues of public interest.

Tony recalled that when he was young, the media was influential and it was cool to work in media. Disappointments arose when he found that some printed news was copied from electronic media. But he still believes in the role of media as the fourth estate of the society. For example, in the case of dismantling Queen's Pier and the appointment of deputy secretaries and political assistants, the media at least voiced its views.

Missing the frontline

Although journalistic work is hard and the working hours are long, the job has special attractions. Once you quit the job you miss the 'frontline'.

Amy and Damon quit the media once. Amy became an office lady and as a PR officer in Radio Television Hong Kong. Then watching the news on TV day after day, she found there was so much she wanted to do, so many things she felt had to be said. She realized that she really loved being a reporter and returned to work in the newsroom of CR.

'I shall not think about quitting my job anymore. Now I know how to adjust my feeling and expectations towards my job. I don't expect I will often make exclusive reports but I will try my best to ensure the news I produce is accurate and of good quality.' Amy concluded.

Damon quit the media for less than a month. He said: 'When watching TV news during holiday, I could feel my mood going up and down with the news. I had got used to the life of reporter and I am so concerned about news. If I saw the news about a collapsing building, I just want to rush there immediately.'

Whether the journalists are the post-80's, post-60s or post-50's there's no difference in their passion over news.