Some reflections on the media industry

Chan Yiu-keung - Former Ta Kung Pao Reporter

[中文][Apr 2011 - The Journalist] When I first decided to take journalism for my undergraduate degree, I wanted to contribute to society. Unfortunately, my family did not support my wishes. My family owns a business, so they hoped I could be of help after graduation. In 2008, I graduated. I had tried very hard to convince my family to let me become a journalist.

Before my graduation, I did my internship at Sing Pao. By that time, I already knew that the salary was not directly proportionate to the working hours in this industry. But I also knew that my remuneration package was more decent than other graduates and my job was more meaningful as well. There are a lot of minorities in the society in need of help. Reporters as uncrowned kings, have the responsibility to monitor society. I wished to promote social development through my writing so that those in need could get help.

However I quit after two years. A two-year stint, of course, cannot be compared with those of my seniors. In these two years, I had reported on the financial budget, the policy address, court cases, etc. I even had to be a photo-journalist occasionally. I had a lot of opportunities and made many friends through my job.

Some complained about the long working hours without any over-time allowance. It is hard to stay in this industry for long. For me the long working hours is not a problem, as long as the job is meaningful. However, the reality is cruel. I have a different understanding of the journalistic industry from my working experience. I know how the news topics are chosen, and have more understanding of politics.

I had never thought of giving up, and never expected I would leave that soon. Money of course is one of the reasons for me to quit. But more importantly, I had a new job which allows me to meet rare challenges. I have decided to help my family-owned business and would be stationed overseas for a long time. For me, this change could help me to maintain my family relationship.

I may return to journalism someday, but the media industry is not the only way one can contribute to society. I once went to report on the Mainland, and met a senior reporter who is specialized in cross-strait news. I learnt we were from the same alumni during the conversation. He told me there were a lot of seniors who were very experienced. This senior explained to me that those have stayed in this industry for a long time not only because they love their job, but also because it is hard to get another job. This in fact helps the industry in keeping reporters who are experienced and who have extensive contacts.

Some may say that opportunities the media industry are limited so it is hard to succeed and fly high. But I think that any other industry with more opportunities can not guarantee a good salary either. It does not mean that you have a bright future when you have become a manager after leaving journalism for two or three years and getting many thousands of dollars each month.

Everyone should seize opportunities as they come and one should be well-prepared for them. Frankly speaking, the value of a journalist does not depend on how many stories he or she writes, but on the significance and the influence of his reports on society. A young reporter was promoted because of his good performance in reporting the Sichuan earthquake. Monetary rewards for the hard work of journalists are pittance. The long-working hours also affects their work-and-life balance. But as long as you can see value in your job, it is still worth staying on in this industry. As Aung San Suu Kyi said during an interview with a magazine: “We must learn to live our lives”. This should be the motto of every industry.

Chan Yiu-keung is a former reporter with Ta Kung Pao.