Laughs and Tears of a Reporter-turn-Dad and Mom

Ho Wing-hong, Senior Reporter, i-Cable TV News

On the first day I joined the news industry, I knew that it was not a good job for lovers, for marriage or partners who are considerate.

After being a journalist over a dozen years, actually at a time that people prefer feeding pets to raising kids, I took the risk and became a father of two children. My daughter is five years old and she often calls me ‘Handsome’. My younger son is eighteen months old who says ‘car’ or ‘ball’ more often than murmuring the word ‘Dad’.

My wife had also been a reporter. She is used to it and understands totally if I need to stay in office beyond the normal working hours or switch days off, changing shifts at the last moment. My elder daughter complains sometimes but does not mind too much.

I am grateful that I am actually blessed. Without the understanding of my family about the nature of journalistic work, we might have had complaints that led to quarrels and, worst, broken a family.

Compared to those in the print medium, I am a bit fortunate. The working hours in the electronic medium is less irregular and the supervisors are more likely to ask some other colleague to take up an assignment if it crosses the shift. My assignment editor always encourages us to finish our job at hand as soon as possible and go home. For instance, a day shift lasts from 9 am to 7 pm at night and I can usually get home by 8.30 pm after work. It allows me an hour and a half to spend with my kids before they go to bed. No matter whether we watch TV together, take a shower, tell bedtime stories or accompany them to sleep, it is a family life.

How about print journalists? When working on a newspaper, I had to work from eleven in the morning till midnight. Well, the working hours were not exactly inhuman, but it is totally incompatible with family life. Most likely, a print journalist will only see his or her child during the day off. While a single journalist can stay in the newsroom, which has become his home actually, for long hours, a parent-journalist may become a stranger to his child. What a pity!

As a matter of fact, the working life as a journalist may not allow you to spend “too much” time with your child. When working on a news story, a reporter usually works until the last minute, or making calls until deadline. Thus “overtime” work is common. It may be understandable if this happened only occasionally, but in the print medium this is not the case. So you cannot be a good parent if you have to give up holidays for your work.   

In my opinion, working on holiday is not a question whether you are diligent or lazy. It means you give up your holiday as well as the chance to lead a normal life.

Journalists who are single can use the day off for whatever they want. They can stay in the newsroom and make lots of telephone calls or even make meals appointment with sources, and come up with a scoop story the day off after. They have little time in their leisure time for practicing yoga, enjoying high tea, shopping, taking photos, riding mountain bike or playing war games.

For journalists who have become parents, holidays must be reserved for their respective other half and the children. Family members long to go out with you. You, yourself, also want to fulfill your parental responsibilities towards the children who have been cared for by the housemaid all the weekdays…changing diapers, milk-feeding, playing the swing, running around in the park, studying with them, etc. How can you even consider running after a news story on your day off? 
If you have promised your children you’d take them to a theme park on Saturday and blowing soup bubbles in Victoria Park with them on Sunday, would you want to break your promises to them? You can, of course, buy them numerous toys to make up with them. But you can be sure that the effect on the little hearts is immeasurable.

I had been a kid and understand fully how a kid longs for holiday activities promised by his parent, even though the activity may be just buying a snack in supermarket. Now I have become a father, I of course would try my best to finish my tasks within working hours and not to work on holiday.

Another challenge for the journalist parent is the overseas duty trip. It is especially so if it is a dangerous assignment because the software and hardware of protection for Hong Kong journalists are inferior to their western counterparts. I always ask myself when I am in a dangerous situation: Who will take care of my children if something untoward happened to me? As a result, I’m more cautious with every step I take.

There is good side to being a journalist parent: bringing news home in the way of watching news together. My daughter has watched news since the age of one or two. She got to know about June Fourth events, Donald Tsang and the SAR government, etc earlier than many other things. I am sure she will have good marks in General Education subject.

Have I mentioned some bad habits of journalists? In the newsroom, journalists are trained to be efficient in order to catch the deadline and naturally get their children to do things quick. No matter whether it is eating, doing homework, brushing teeth and even going to the loo, I always complaining about them being so tardy. But I would suddenly pull up and ask myself, does everything have to be rushed as if handling news…even when going to the loo?

So, to be, or not to be a parent? There are millions of reasons either side. When the decision has to be made, ask yourself one question: When you are back home, exhausted after a full day’s work, do you want a kid to greet you with a simple cry of “Daddy!” or “Mommy!”?