Sunday, 11 December 2005

Professional review

After coming home after my midnight rendezvous with Mr Handsome, I checked my email while the bath water was running. There was something from my friend Larry, who is a classmate from Waseda. He is now working for NHK's Spanish radio program. Earlier this year, I asked him if he knew of any English-language newscaster/reporter jobs in Japan, and he said no but he'll keep an eye out, and he really did! NHK World is looking for an English-speaking business/economics newscaster for their international TV news show. So far, I've only seen Japanese newscasters (who all speak with thick Japanese accents), so I'm not very optimistic about my chances. I am excited at the prospect, though, and I will apply. The deadline is in less than two weeks.

Lately, I've been reviewing my goals and career path. It's been almost one year since I started working. The goal I set for myself last year was to get a foot into a news organization and make my way in front of a camera as a journalist, even if it meant starting at the bottom and putting aside all of the investments that my parents had pumped into me. Amazingly, I think I have done quite well. There were some very tough times and I've killed many brain cells doing work the company can train any turkey to do.

The past year has been just learning any and all skills that I felt were within my reach. I'm no master at any of them, but I'm quite good at some, and good enough at all of them to make myself a valuable member our production team. I think I'm good value for the company, but I don't want to do this forever. I now know better what I want to do and what I don't want to do.

The general direction has been towards becoming a reporter and anchor. The anchor part, I passed within two months of entering the station. My producer liked my style and asked the head program director what he thought. Apparently, he liked my style and presentation, so he screen-tested me several times and gave the thumbs up to the news director. No word for two months.

Then one day, our female anchor had to be somewhere else for a PR event, and my producer asked the news director if I can substitute for her that night. She said yes. A week later, the news director still hadn't said anything to me or my producer about my performance that night or letting me continue with anchoring or not. My producer really wanted another female anchor, especially for weekends, when we only had guys. My producer gets very timid in front of supreriors, so she had me ask the news director myself. I walked into her office, and our conversation went something like this:
me: Hi chief. Thanks for giving me the chance to do the newscast that night. I really enjoyed it. How do you think I did?
News director (ND): Hm. How old are you?
me: I am 26 this year.
ND: Twenty-six? Let me think, I can almost be your mother!

ND: Doing news takes time. Getting that news flavor takes time. You have to let it soak and ferment, like in making wine, to get that flavor.

ND: Don't worry, you're still young. You're only 25. I can be your mother. You've got time. Don't worry. There's no need to rush.
me: OK
ND: You've already broken the record at this station. No one's gotten screen tested that quickly and anchored in your record time. No rush. You really need to let everything soak in to have that flavor.

ND: I'm afraid that people will talk.
me: OK, thanks.

She likes to repeat herself, but I'm confused about why she repeated those things, and I still don't know which issues were the most important. She is known to make decions people don't understand, perhaps becaus she doesn't explain them. Now, I sucked in that newscast at best, but people told me that the other anchors on our show were bigger messes than me when they started. We have a roster of anchors with interesting backgrounds. One was special assistant to the CEO of a hotel, one a network administrator who occassionally submits articles to a newspaper in Hong Kong and one is a TV English teacher who also translates documents for the environmental protection agency. There was only one anchor with a real news background--he is the news director for an English-language radio station. The anchor who was from the hotel was hired at the start of the show some three years ago, to be anchor. She became a full-time staff at the station, later reporting and then anchoring the Mandarin newscasts as well. The IT and teacher, however, are still part-time staff and only come in to do newscasts or to translate/edit.

Months later, I am still plugging away, trying to get the "right" flavor. All the while, with people up and down the chain asking me why I'm not anchoring yet. I wish I knew what to work on. What do I have to do to have that "flavor" that she wants?

During the year, I've gotten to know which flavors I like and don't like, however.

After I was hired as full-time staff (and taking a 40% pay cut...), I've gotten to know the intricacies of producing our show, what's going on in Taiwan, the news environment here and what's news to our target audience.

My producer gave me much freedom to report. She also had me file three reports for CNN's World Report, which ended up doing alright. Two of them were actually rerun two to three times. The results were encouraging. Being able to see my own work, being able to show it and also be praised for it was the best feeling in the world for me.

As I explored the different beats, I realized that while political and business stories were more challenging, I didn't enjoy them very much. I didn't like the people and I didn't like the picture. The human interest and lifestyle/leisure stories were quite different. I really enjoyed introducing things and showing people where they can go and what they can do. I had fun doing the occasional silly thing, like jumping into the freezing canal in a big orange wig, putting other reporters to shame and all the while making good entertainment. I loved talking to people passionate about their work, especially when it came to food, art and music. Much of this really isn't news, however, and I realized that I am not suitable for news in the long run.

There was a period of time when I was miserable day and night and had hit a new low.

Two weeks ago, I finally worked up the courage to talk to my producer (a different one from before September, and who is also our female anchor). I told her that I enjoy all the different things I do and being able to take any position that needs to be covered, but I'd like to do more reporting. I talked about the kind of reporting that I like (which she likes, too) and the first thing she said was, "I know, I can tell. You look so happy in front of the camera in those stories." During our talk, there was a show on a different channel in the background, introducing interesting places and people around the country, and I pointed to it, saying "I'd really like to be out there more, doing that kind thing." She said she knows, and in fact, I should move more towards entertainment. I was surprised that she even said "entertainment." Then I said that I would like to figure out how to get from where I am now to out there, working in front of the camera, in the field.

Unfortunately, reality shows do not belong in news. My producer said that while I'm in the news department, in this company, what I can do is file more restaurant stories, more fun stories, more energetic stories. That will build up a good resume and increase my exposure.

For a while, I was quite angry at my producer for not saying anything about what she saw in me, but now I'm grateful for her passiveness. Because she didn't say anything, I was forced to really THINK about what I want and what I need. It was terrifically agonizing, but like they say, the tighter the coil, the higher the spring.

Sometime in the mid term, I will leave news for something more creative and entertaining, but until I accomplish something and leave my mark in news, I will not go anywhere in the foreseeable future. I'm going to become a good reporter and an anchor at a reputable station, to begin with.

In the long term, I'm still not sure what I want to do, but I am developing a great appreciation for the arts, so that may also become a piece of the puzzle. I do know that business will be a part of it as well--it's what I studied and enjoyed, and I know I can make a lot of money, somehow, someday, somewhere.

2005 has really been a roller coaster to say the very least, but a very exhilarating one.

Look out, 2006!

1 comment:

miNgo said...

2005 was seriously filled with ups and downs for many people..

through various experiences we find more things we don't like and don't want. but it's really a proccess of elimination. we may think we want something, but when we get it over and over again, we'll realize that's not what we want either.. just keep an open mind and don't be affraid to stop doing what you don't think is right, cut your losses and move on. the problem with most people is they are stubborn, when things aren't going right, they become too fixated on the problem, trying to fix it wasting all their resources on it instead of moving on and creating something greater. if 98% of your instincts tell you it's not going to work, then dont' count on that 2%