Keeping Out of My Father's Shadow

Tony Cheung - Reporter, ATV

“Hey, there’s something I want to ask you: Are you Paul Cheung’s son?”

I was in my office busy with work one night in 2007, when the phone rang and a reporter friend asked that question. I had never thought about how to answer such a question, so I replied, “No, I am not.”

The caller responded: “Really? That’s fine, bye!”

It is a common saying that when reporters get into this business, they get so busy at their work that they don’t seem to have any relatives or friends. I never imagined that this would happen in that way. I could not figure it out until a more senior reporter friend reminded me that credibility is essential to a reporter. From then on I decided that I would only refuse to answer, when I am asked the same question again.

It is true that there is nothing to lie about – my father is Paul Cheung, Ming Pao Daily News’ Editor-in-Chief. He is a wonderful father – humorous, supportive of our family, and dedicated to his work. He is also a journalist whom I respect.

My father never advised me to be a reporter when I grow up, but when I was a child, going to Ming Pao’s Christmas Party was an annual family event. I enjoyed the time visiting the newsroom, saying hello to reporters there, eating snacks, and having fun in lucky draws with other children. From the old newsroom in North Point, to the present one in Chai Wan, I was there almost every Christmas until Form 4, when I had to concentrate more on my studies. Chinese Composition class was my favourite subject in school, and I found it exciting to see the reporters working on their ‘composition’ in the newsroom. I guess this was how I first became interested in becoming a reporter.

Visiting the newsroom also let me understand where my dad worked all day long. Since I was little, meeting up with my father has been a weekly happening. I seldom got to see him during weekdays: it was because he would still be asleep when I went to school, already at work when I got home, and STILL at work when I went to bed. Although sometimes he might accidentally wake me up when he came into my room to see me after work, it was only on Saturdays (and Sundays) when I could really see him.

Even though I could only see my father once a week, I could read Ming Pao every day. Ming Pao at home has always been subscribed to and paid for, because father insisted that we should not read it for free. I cannot remember when I started to read the newspaper every morning, but I remember that it was in my senior primary school years, when I decided to be a reporter. At that time, I treated every composition class as my “pre-vocational training”, and when I enrolled in summer programmes in a nearby community centre, I always picked those “Little Reporter” ones – those involving newsroom visits, and publishing community newsletters. It was from these activities that I learnt to be more aware of current affairs, especially those around us, in our neighbourhood.

“We both found it hilarious…”

After my A-Levels, because of my love for arts subjects, I picked HKU Bachelor of Arts, rather than Chinese Journalism in the Baptist U. In my final year, I went to a career talk held by Ming Pao, and applied for the job right away – without asking for my father’s advice, and without thinking about what would happen if we both worked for the same paper. But it was not until I attended the written test, that I realized how little I knew about current affairs – I found the written test difficult; I even failed to name a major government bureau. When I left Ming Pao, I was really wondering if I should have studied Journalism instead to get internship experience. I also asked myself why I had not tried harder to understanding current affairs during my college years.

During this time, many experienced reporters left another newspaper, Sing Pao, after a strike. Father encouraged me to write to Sing Pao, to see if I can be a reporter there, and I succeeded. I am grateful for the opportunity Sing Pao gave me, because at that time, Sing Pao was a good training ground for newcomers. Many of my colleagues were like me, fresh graduates, who had always dreamed of becoming professional reporters. Our newsroom in Fortress Hill was always full of fun and laughter. There were talk among the reporters, that if I was really Paul Cheung’s son, it was unthinkable that he wants to see me to work in Sing Pao. The reality was the opposite. When I told him about this talk, we both found it hilarious.

Being a reporter helped draw me closer to my father. For years, I had been seeing him almost once a week because he came home only late at night. However, after I became a reporter, I came home late at night too, and then we would talk about what I did during the day, and discuss local politics.

Many reporter friends may think I hate it when others talk about the relationship between me and my father. To be frank, I don’t mind if it is just casual talk. I love my job as a reporter, and I would appreciate it if everyone continues to treat me, and teach me, just like every other reporter.