Monday, 17 April 2006

Day three

My colleagues told me that headlines from major newspapers are read at 7h00 over the airwaves every morning. This means that I need to be in the car by 6h50 since I don't have a tuner in my room. However, the audio system in the car I drive is now functioning only partially -- the CD player is broken, four of the preset station buttons don't work and the tuner antenna is hard of hearing. In other words, I need to make it out of the mountains before I can have radio reception. Getting up at 6h00 is hard enough. Getting out of the house before even 7h00 is more than physically difficult -- it is almost a mental barrier. Needless to say, I missed the headlines again.

In the morning, I attended a press conference reacting to a newspaper article run a couple of days ago. In the article, it said that leprosy patients in Taiwan should not be unreasonably asking the government for compensation -- a comment directed at those who suffered from leprosy after 1962. There was a mandatory and arguably inhumane quarantine of leprosy patients, which was legally abolished in 1962. In attendance at the PC were previous sufferers who were indeed interned after 1962, and they wanted to make their case. At first sight, I thought the story was going to be quite weak and didn't quite know what to write. But when I actually thought about it after work, I realized that it is quite significant in the ongoing battle between those interned and the Taiwanese government. If only I were more familiar with the background before writing it...

In the afternoon, I wrote a supporting piece for the launching of Taiwan's Formosat-3, a state-of-the-art weather satellite that was to be launched the following day from the US. I was to write about its functions, which are basically to gather weather information on Earth and in space, and I tried to make it as simple and close to the audience as possible, but my editor felt it was too simple and put in all the scientific stuff that I can't even read, much less understand. Oh well, I have lots to learn.

After work, I chatted for quite some time with the head of special news programming, who has become something like an advisor to me. She's not quite a mentor, but someone I go to for advice once in a while. We chatted a little bit, but mostly, I listened to her vent about one of her part-timers being blatantly recruited in front of her to the English news desk. By the time she was done, it was already 22h00. But somehow, I wasn't as exhausted as the previous day and drove home without falling asleep. Perhaps my body is getting a little more used to the physical exertion.

Not a bad third day, but still dying for the week to end. Just one more day until my day off......just one more day.....

Saturday, 15 April 2006

Day two

Day two was much better. I actually walked into the station at 8h00 in a good mood and ready to take on the day. I wasn't as scared, and I think I was beginning to enjoy taking on something completely new and DIFFICULT. Ha!

At 9h00, I went to a press conference a Taipei city counselor gave on inflated water bills. In Taipei, water meters are often difficult to read because they're behind parked cars, locked gates, etc. When the water company can't read your meter, they charge you the same amount as the previous billing period. Sometimes the user wins, sometimes the user loses. Of course they only complain when they lose, and that was the case this time. Sometimes, though, part of the problem is the water company employee who may cite a bogus reason for not getting the meter reading and just breeze by. And sticking to tradition, the city counselor got really worked up, raised her voice, accused the water company representative of not being able to read the numbers in the photo she had, when she in fact was the one that couldn't read. It was pretty funny. "Do you know how to read? Oh, wait, nevermind." Anyway, if your water bill looks like previous months' and you think you've been charged too much, make an appointment to have the water company come by and re-read your meter. That was my morning story.

At 14h30, I went go a sports equipment show, expecting to see interesting sports equipment and sports "toys" but couldn't find anything interesting enough for news after walking around the entire trade centre twice, so we headed back to the station. By that time, I was getting really worried because it was 15h15 and I was trying to come up with something for the evening news. My boss wasn't worried since I'm so new at this, but I have a big problem with feeling useless... Then, two shots rang out and I was in luck. There was a bank heist and they needed support, so we got to go. My cameraman and I went to the police station where they were holding one of the suspects to get footage of the guy with his head covered and hand cuffed to the wall. There was a .92 Beretta, a cartridge and a mask. I suppose you don't see those things often, since guns are illegal in Taiwan. After sending our tape to the main scene where my colleague was reporting live, we were instructed to stick around...forever. Nothing happened, thankfully, I suppose. Well, I got totally smoked out at the police station and saw that many, many policemen and cameramen are no gentlemen, whatsoever.

We were finally released to return to the station around 18h30. Thankfully, I didn't have to write a script or make a package, since it was all taken care of by other colleagues. So I caught up on some more news and headed home around 20h30. I almost fell asleep while driving 20h30. Boy, was I tired.

What an exciting day, though.

Monday, 10 April 2006


I was transferred to the main news desk today, and my my... It is going to be hell for the next three months. I am now officially a journalist for the Chinese news. No more wondergirl work for English news (for now). It is Chinese, Chinese, Chinese. I am scared out of my wits.

From now on, I have to think in Chinese, write in Chinese and speak in Chinese. While I have been doing all of these, I haven't had to do them all at once.

I couldn't sleep last night because I was so anxious. Most of the anxiety comes from my weaknesses in listening comprehension and composition. If I can't understand what people are saying, then I don't know what is going on. And if I can't express myself clearly or poetically (occasionally the need does arise), then I can't write my story! Add the pressure of deadlines and the desire to do well and what I have is one cocktail for disaster with a nasty hangover.

When I went to report to my new boss this morning, she didn't even know that I was coming. Hearing from people that she can be quite temperamental to say the least, I was even more scared. She seemed quite nice, but I was still very apprehensive, which of course, I didn't show. But it certainly made me even more anxious.

I was given a Hakka concert to cover, but it was at 14h00, which meant I still had to look for something else to do for for the noontime news. A colleague found a story in the Apple Daily about a 34 year-old graduate student who started his own theatre company and also another production company. But the interesting thing is, he is an actor himself, and he is very well known for playing female roles. In fact, with makeup and a beautiful dress, he turns into one very pretty girl. My new colleagues and my boss were talking about who he looks like when he's all made up, and my boss kept saying "gosh, he looks like one really famous entertainer when she was young," and couldn't recall the name or the exact face. Meanwhile, I just kept my eyes really low and kept rubbing my neck wishing they would go away, because...because...because...he almost looks like my godmother in certain shots. Well, my boss still couldn't put a finger on who it was she was thinking of, and I thanked the universe and promised to be a good girl for a week. I don't know how much people the reporters know about me and my background, and I wasn't about to test that. But it turns out that all of them now know where I live and what our house looks like. It was my father's great idea to let them film my mother's luau birthday party last weekend. So now I am forced to work even harder...which is good, I keep reminding myself.

Anyway, I was given the task of tracking this actor down and doing the story. I was given the phone number of a reporter at another station who was also interested in doing the story, and was told to contact her. So when I found the person, I told the other reporter, who told other reporters who then told other reporters. But in the end, the time the actor set to meet the press overlapped with another assignment my boss had given me for the afternoon, so I this story on to a colleague, which was just fine. I found the guy, got credit for it, and learned how to track a person down and got a taste of how reporters work with each other. Honestly, I don't know how I would have written that story. I don't have the vocabulary to describe beautiful women, much less drag queens. I don't even know what angle to take on a story like this. But I suppose if I had to come up with something, I probably could, somehow...

So by that time, it was neither already late nor still early, so my boss had my cameraman take me out to "check out" an entertainer's funeral service. In other words, we were sent to be paparazzi. So my very big cameraman and I rode out to the funeral parlor to see if anything would happen--if the entertainer boyfriend of the deceased entertainer would break down or if he would bring a new girlfriend with him or something of the sort. I wasn't too clear on the background. By the time we got there, all the other stations' reporters were wrapping up. They had already sent the body into the cremation furnace, family and friends were standing around, and the boyfriend seemed alright, with no other girlfriend in sight. In other words, we were too late and there was no scandal. THANK GOODNESS. Then I phoned in the situation and my boss said to just get a few shots and come back. So while my very big cameraman filmed, I looked around, not really knowing what to look for and actually really wanting not to be seen... I now feel for the paparazzi. I will remember to be nice to them and not be judgmental if I should end up on the other side of the camera. After all, they are only doing what their bosses told them to do.

So it was mostly a morning of running around and winding up with nothing.

Lunch came and went and we finally set out for my 14h00 press conference on a Hakka concert. On the way back from the concert, my boss called and said that planes have been grounded at Songshan Airport due to the rains, and we were to go over and check it out. When we got there, flights had resumed, so there wasn't much to do. We got some pictures for another reporter who was in charge of weather and then finally went back. By the time I sat down to write my story, it was about 17h00 and the deadline was 18h00. I was in a panic. I had already written out the outline in the car, but it still took forever to write. Thank goodness for press kits, because otherwise I would have to go back to school and learn Chinese composition from scratch! I borrowed a lot of phrases from the kit, and whether it is the right thing to do or not, all I was concerned with was getting my story out. My rationale is, we all have to start somewhere.

My boss made no major changes, which was quite a relief, because it meant I made no major mistakes. It was really different thinking and writing in Chinese. I can't put my finger on what's so different yet, however.

After voicing my script over, it turned out to be too long. The clock was ticking, my nerves were fraying and I could feel almost feel the production staff breathing down my neck. After cutting some of the soundbites, it was less interesting and still a bit long, but I didn't care. There was simply no time left.

When my cameraman finished editing the video and uploaded it, I was still shaking. I don't think I've experienced so much pressure over 9,5 hours. Granted, half the stress came from myself because I want to perform well and show that I can do it, but that was still only half... And normally, three packages is the normal load, and I only did ONE. After updating my script changes in the computer system, I was to see how my colleague did the actor story. But I guess I had forgotten to breathe or something and I got really dizzy, so I decided to get some water and take a walk and see some familiar faces at the English news desk. When I made it back to my old seat and saw my old boss and old team, I almost started crying... But instead of crying, I did three voiceovers for them. I needed to do something that I knew how to do, for once. So after some very nice words from my old team, I trudged back upstairs, voiced their stories and once I caught my breath again, exited Neverneverland. It was back to the scary and real world of CHINESE.

So, on my first day, I made one story and I nearly fell apart. Let's see, I left home at 7h15 and got home at 22h00. It's been a long day.

I have to say, though, against what I had expected, my boss and colleagues were very nice and patient with me, at least today. I must learn. I must learn quickly! They're not paying to teach me, and I'm not paying to learn. I'm here to work and to succeed!

Oh my goodness, I have to be up in four hours. Good night!