Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Life of A Professional Journalist By Elanie F.

This summer, I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to work in a morning post in Shanghai for Discovery when they really needed people to conduct interviews for the National Book Fair in China. During the seven days I interned, I came to understood what it means to be a professional journalist–– I worked at least 14 hours a day, I had no choice but to write what they wanted me to write—in short, I learned that the life of a journalist is pretty tough...
A Large Load of Commitment

During the National Book Fair of 2011, I had to report to work at 10am, while my teacher always got there at 8, which was also the time the Book Fair opened. Although we spent our days at the same place, we usually did not have much chance to work together. We were the only two journalists from this company, which gives you a sense about the size of the workload that each of us had everyday. On any given day, we tended to have three important events to attend. We would collect materials from the authors, then decide if that would be a good topic to write or not. Sometimes we had to give up on some important events at night because we had to get back to the newsroom or somewhere with a computer to start writing by 6 at the latest. Editors would tell us how much we had to write, but the secret was to write always a little more than required because the editors would keep revising your work over and over until midnight–– the due time that the editors must send the articles to print so that the newspapers could get the delivery to people on time in the morning. Editors would usually have a little bit more time to rest in the day, but the reporters, like my teacher, only had 8 hours maximum everyday that week for resting.

Objectivity ≠ No Opinion

Most people would think that newspapers are completely objective, but the fact is–– of course not! The section that my teacher was working on was literature, which did not include that much emotion or opinion. However, that does not mean that all the articles do not represent any idea. I went to a press conference about a TV show with another journalist earlier in order to practice writing for the Book Fair. In that conference, the TV craft released a shocking poster of the new season of the show. While I thought that writing about how the actors’ feelings about the poster was enough, the other journalist told me that we had to finesse a point that denied that exposed image because those “great people” above the journalists, and even above the newspaper company, would not like that poster. So, we still reported the truth, but we also carefully stood for the government’s opinion. Honestly, that was a hard task, since neither of us knew that TV show before—we wrote the whole thing based solely on the group interviews interspersed with some opinions from those “great people” to deny the poster. In addition, readers would still consider the reports to be objective from their habits, without realizing how hard we were writing behind–– writing for something we did not even know or believe, and I was even forbidden to use some popular phrases to indicate the problem.

Being Treated Unfairly

During the book fair, I received most of my tasks the night before from my teacher. About half of them were to attend events held for famous authors, and the rest were to interview certain authors and readers and write for a decided topic about their opinions. Although being a journalist meant that we could approach those authors with more freedom, I did receive a lot of white eyeballs before or after the interviews. For the authors, especially those famous ones who did not have to depend on journalists to get more honor, would usually ignore the reporters who did not make an appointment in advance. Once, I was rejected by an author who told me, “No time to be interviewed!” I went back to see my teacher and was very disappointed. To my dismay, my depression intensified when my teacher almost shouted at me, “We have to post his opinion tomorrow! If he is still here, go follow him to the parking lot and do your interview on the way!” I finally understood how serious this job was, and I had to commit myself 100% to it—there was no time for me to feel embarrassed by one rejection! I went again and followed the author, although people around him (editors of the publisher, readers and friends of the author) showed their uncensored impatience and dissatisfaction for me. All I could do was give them back an apologetic smile. But I knew I would not feel sorry after a while if I kept doing this job. I was not treated fairly—probably no journalists were—but that was our job, which gave us only one way to go: throw away your pride, you have to get used to that.

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