...Post 80's generation in the eyes of media management

Mak Yin-ting - Chief Editor, The Journalist

[中文] [Apr 2010 - The Journalist] That is how we come to the being Post 80's generation in the eyes of media management

In most main stream media outlets, post 80's generation, who are aged twentieth, is the mainstay of the newsroom. They are always at the forefront of news events and taking up the important role as buyer, sometimes as well as chef, of a news in making. Do they share common characteristic and how the management can better guide them can affect the quality of news very much. The Journalist thus conducted a discussion among managerial staff of different medium.

It is important to note that all participants are only speak for themselves according to their experience in different medium. Therefore, The Journalist only states the medium they work for without mentioning what particular news organization they serve.

Ma:   Man-king Ma, radio Chief Assignment Editor.
Lee:   Wai-leung Lee, TV News Editor
Lau:   Chung-yeung Lau, Deputy Chief Editor of a newspaper
To:   Jerry To, News Editor of a newspaper
Sin:   Wai-keung Sin, News Editor of a magazine

Post 80's ≒ Fresh Reporters
Basically, participants agree that the socalled 'post 80's generation' is similar with those fresh reporters. Moreover, it is inappropriate to generalize people with ten years difference at the most. In short, it can be said that they are warm-blooded and bounds to be growing mature when times go by. However, they do have some outstanding characters that are cultivated by the environment and society they have been brought up.

Ma: While the society and the management in the news outlet becomes more demanding, 'post 80's generation' becomes more progressive so as to make themselves outstanding. They are eager for quick success and achieving. In many cases, fresh reporters soon request to be a political reporter.

Lau: I think the young or frontline reporters are more miserable than us. They bear more pressure because the rhythm of work is faster and the workload is heavier. Moreover, their supervisors can monitor their work and whereabouts of individual reporter through live broadcast by cable television channels.

To certain extend, reporter is only a tool. In the past, reporters were seen as the representative of the media they worked for and had dominant decision on the news they wrote. Therefore, interviewees were willing to talk to frontline reporters. Now, they prefer to talk to news editors in the news room whom they know are the decision maker of news.

To: It is true that the team leaders or supervisors in the news room come with more direction in news angle now. If the frontline could not get the angle they decided, they will disregard all news materials gathered and ask the frontline to get the information they wish to have. That's nothing we can help. I hope the frontline will not get frustrated and try hard to get more worthy news angle and proposed it to their supervisors.

As a matter of fact, a mobile, which easily get the frontline connected to the newsroom, is also a reason that shrunk the freedom of action and management of news. In the past, reporters might chat with news sources or counterparts from other media after covering an event. They could even held up some indefinite news information and reported to the supervisors only when they though the news were ripe for publication. However, it is difficult for them to do so now.

More Rigid, Less Privacy
With the mounting up pressure brought by competition and management, frontline reporters tend to agree on what information should be used more, and sometimes even agree on what sound bites should be used. It will be followed by fresh reporters and make news more monophonic.

Lau: Such situation is more serious in newspaper. In our days, competition among journalists was based on differences. If I get beat by missing a good story this day, I'd struggle for another exclusive on the other days. The supervisors would not mind you taking a different angle from others. On the contrary, editors now concern more whether you miss some points that other have. However, I believe those who stay in the industry are independent minded and hope very much the supervisors allow more rooms for the frontline reporters to maneuver.

To: I still think that reporters should be more critical and get more news worthy angle to 'sell' to his or her supervisors.

Sin: In magazine, the problem of agree on news information is not common because magazine stress more on its own angle. The problem I encounter most is that the reporters insist too much on his or her own perspective. Those born in the 1960's or 1970's are more willing to listen to senior colleagues in hammering news angle. In rare extreme cases, they can be regarded as bias or detached from the main stream society. I understand that media should take lead in public opinion but it must be balanced with different views. However, the post 80's generation may not see eyes to eyes with me in this regard. I think the news coverage of the anti express rail link just zoomed in this character.

Ma: Compare to our detachment, the post 80's generation is radical indeed. It may be the result of the society which has become more radical in the new century.

To: There are more protests took place in recent years which do not allow enough rooms for the reporters to calm down and detach from the emotion arose by those news events. The engagement with news events becomes a tendency when they report the news passionately and received no complaint from the readers.

Lee: It is almost impossible for television news broadcasting one sided news report. Even a frontline reporter had his or her own stance towards certain issues, the editor will edit it in a way to meet the requirements of fair and objective before it is aired. On the contrary, electronic news reporters are at pain to get alternative views if the great majority of the society is on one side. Of course, the e-generation has some edges over the oldies.

Lau: Since the post 80's generation stick to the computer when they are awake, their knowledge on how to use computer-assisting reporting (CAR) is much better than us. However, we must evaluate the so-called hot topics they find on the internet is news worthy than the hot topics in the real world.

Ma: More important is to cross check the accuracy of the information search from the internet.

To: I find that they are more emotional and are good at picking bites from interviewees.

Lau: It may not be a merit for news bearing significance. By the way, it is really a headache for me that they like to share everything they encounter or think on the web, even it is a story idea discussed in the newsroom. It boggles my mind. They should respect the confidentiality of some information they get hold of in relation to their job.

Ma: It is really a problem. You cannot prohibit them from chat online by msn or whatsoever but it will make an easy way for them to spread the information out carelessly. Better Guidance, Better Cooperation To get along and better make use of the edges of these warm-blooded youths, management has to understand them more and assign them to cover appropriate news events. However, it needs patience in the process which management usually lacks of time to do so.

To: 'Post 80's generation' is young and thus more energetic and creative. But they are usually more careless and not cautious enough. Also, they will easily jump to conclusion. It makes them more suitable to cover social news events such as anti express rail link and events concerning minority groups. It is especially so because they tend to upholding justice and will be more active and positive when cover these kinds of news. However, you have to beware that they may not want to cover the opposite views of that particular event or group and you may force to get another reporter to report on opposite views. Otherwise, the news may fail in professionalism of balance.

Lau: The 'post 80's generation' learns fast. As a supervisor, we have to step in their shoes. That's why I opened a facebook account 3 to 4 years ago. I want to understand them or risk confrontation otherwise. But it is time consuming to enhance mutual understanding and need patience to do that. I have to admit that I am not that patient sometimes.

Way to Improvement
Ma: The mastering of languages get heavier weight in electronic media but the 'post 80's generation' is weaker in this front. They may type too much on the computer and only remember the first and end part of a Chinese character and
thus easily pick a wrong word from the automatic word list. Moreover, they are careless and absent minded. These are all they have to make improvement on.

Lau: Apart from capability, a successful reporter has to be patient. I hope the 'post 80's generation' work harder and be more patient as some news have to be cultivated and may take times. Moreover, they should not only cover news that they like. During the long career life, they may cover news in different beats before they stick to a particular beat.

Ma: Exactly. That is why I force the fresh reporters cover news as wide as possible. It helps them being promoted to managerial grade.

Sin: Basically, the 'post 80's generation' is serious with some are more careless. In one case, a reporter of the 'post 80's generation' went to the interviewee on the designated time he himself proposed without securing confirmation from the interviewee. He was bound to fail in having the interview done.

Lee: The frontline reporters are more passive now. Moreover, their workloads are heavier and allow no time for them to chat with news sources. This in turn makes it harder for them to establish their own sources.

Ma: As a matter of fact, reporters are linking up with the society they brought up. If you complained their reports are not in-depth, it may because of the society stress more on 'instant information'.

However, the increase of news of superficiality and preinstall standpoints as well as the popularity of paparazzi contribute to the sunk of credibility of news media. In turn, it leads to the slippery of social status of journalists. It needs to be faced by reporters from different generations who have to consolidate efforts from the industry to solve the problem.