Monday, 28 May 2007

Itabashi gumi reunion

An Itabashi gumi reunion during my Tokyo trip earlier in May, over beer in glass boots, live music by tenors and sopranos, and pork knuckles, which were all of course incomparable to the company.






Sunday, 27 May 2007

Happy ending to roller coaster week

Monday, I told my boss that I've had enough of garbage news and that I'm quitting in a year. But by the end of the week, I signed a contract to stay another 2 years. What am I doing? Making strategic choices.

Here's a recap of my crazy week.
Monday: filed four stories (too may if you want quality in any of the stories)
Tuesday: redid a story four times, had a very serious talk with my boss about all the things she was doing that was driving me absolutely insane
Wednesday: did overtime before work AND after work
Thursday: offered a screen test for a program host position at FTV's traffic channel that day but couldn't go because of schedule conflict, got called in for a chat with the news department managing director and offered a 2-year contract to present weekends, got berated over a tabloid story and stayed until 22h00 fixing it, told to prepare for a Taiwanese news screen test for the following night, offered a contract to start presenting weekends at FTV News
Friday: signed contract, got a raise, screen tested for Taiwanese news, came home to Danshui for the weekend

When I was called in to talk about the contract, I was honest and told the MD that I've really come to learn that my values and those of news media in Taiwan is at serious conflict and that I can't keep betraying my beliefs anymore. I gave the most recent example of the live reporting I did on three distinguished men in Taiwan getting honorary doctorates and all the producer wanted was the sound bite of nothing that one of the men said about someone's wedding. She didn't like it, either. She told me that it's hard to strike a balance between ratings and social responsibility sometimes. She said she tries hard to find a balance, and that when I don't like what I'm asked to give to the audience, it's OK to criticize it at the same time. She said we can't give up because Taiwan media responsibility would decompose even faster if we just got up and left, bringing our insistence on social values with us. Truthfully, I was only half convinced. Plus, the contract was terrible. It was for two years, same salary, I'd have to work my regular reporting shift in addition to presenting on my off day(s) and there was no guarantee that I'd be presenting regularly. So with the intent of showing her how I realize it's such a ridiculous agreement, I wrote down those conditions on my notebook, reading it out loud as I did so. She said she didn't like the contract either, but it's company policy and the people upstairs need it if I'm to start presenting. I knew she wasn't about to do anything to change it even if she could, so I told her I'd think about it. She gave me 24 hours to consult my parents and decide.

As lousy as those conditions were, I realized that I'm finally of a certain value to the station and that they want to bind me by law to stay here. Now that they're going to start preparing me to present news regularly, it'll be helpful for me too - I can work on my stage presence, gain exposure and build a reputation. All of these things are exactly what I need if I want to get out of here and move on. It would take some time, and a couple of years doesn't sound like much. If I improve at record speed and I'm spotted by another company, the five month's salary penalty is not much to pay if they are really serious. On the other hand, if the worst case scenario plays out and everything turns sour, then I can pay the penalty and leave.

My conclusion was that I had more to gain than to lose, and so did all three parents. When I went to sign the contract, the MD even gave me an unexpected 5% raise, "for good luck," she said.

Cheers to the beginning of a new stage in my career!

Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Augh!

How I found my desk after returning from Tokyo - paper cup with half a cafe au lait left in it, box of wedding cookies mostly eaten, faxes, memos and a mountain of Financial Times. I always leave with my desk clean so I can come back to a clean desk. Of course it never happens, but I don't think I'll ever learn.

Tuesday, 22 May 2007

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial

The CKS Memorial name change drama continued today when Taipei City ordered all matter the Ministry of Education has affixed on or draped over the building be removed.

(photo from Yam news)

(photo from Yam news)

(photo from Yam news)

(photo from Yam news)

Before they can get past legal and technical challenges and change the sign on the building, they've just covered it.

After the tarps and coverings were removed and confiscated by the city, the MOE announced that it is suing the city for not returning its property it removed from the building. How childish this all seems. But as part of the media circus, I've been assigned to go to stand outside the MOE, and see if I can get the education minister to comment on what he wants to do about this on his way out to the Executive Yuan meeting.

If the name is successfully changed, then I have a feeling that the monument of Chiang Kai-shek inside the hall will be the next thing to go. Perhaps eventually with the wall gone, the name changed, the monument destroyed, there will be nothing left but concrete and marble. It almost feels like the Cultural Revolution being reenacted today in Taiwan, just as the an author in the Economist noted.

(photo from wikipedia)

People whose family was hurt and wronged by CKS should receive some kind of consolation and the pain that they went through should be forever be remembered, but destroying a part of history hardly seems the right way to do it.

How can they tear this down?

This is what the government wants to tear down at the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial.



I think it'd be a pity if it really is torn down. Former Premier Su Zhenchang (蘇貞昌) said that without these walls, more people will want to come in and enjoy the area, and since NY's Central Park and London's Hyde Park don't have walls, why should we have walls here? I'm afraid his advisors and whoever suggested the idea may need to get their facts right and perhaps their head examined.

Sunday, 20 May 2007

Get me out of here

I was assigned to do live coverage of the awarding of honorary doctorates to Morris Chang (張忠謀, founder of TSMC), Lin Huaimin (林懷民, founder of Cloud Gate Dance Theatre and Jin Yong (金庸, journalist and author) this morning at National Cheng-chi University (政治大學) this morning.

In the end, all the producer was interested in was what details Morris Chang could reveal about the wedding of Shirley Guo (郭曉玲), the daughter of Terry Guo (郭台銘, founder of Fox Conn and Taiwan's wealthiest man). Morris Chang revealed nothing, but still, the producer wanted to broadcast live his revealing of nothing, with no regard whatsoever of what was really taking place - the recognition given to three very special Taiwanese men for their enormous contribution to Taiwan's economy, arts and literary scenes. How sad I was.

The afternoon, after starting work on the American Pastime story, I got called to support my colleagues in the media circus surrounding President Chen Shuibian (陳水扁) renaming the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall (中正紀念堂) instead. The pro-independence camp basically wants to cleanse Taiwan of all Chinese influence, and seems to show that historical pain and suffering caused by the KMT (pro-independence camp) can be minimized by renaming everything Chiang-related (Chiang Kai-shek was the leader of the KMT and ruled Taiwan from 1925 to 1978). However, since there is a huge power struggle between the different camps, fierce political drama is played out every single day here. Today was one crescendo, and a miserable day for me. While my colleagues were at the memorial hall covering the president's speech on the name change, I was at Taipei City Hall, where the mayor (Hao Lungbin, 郝龍斌 KMT) held a press conference basically saying that what Chen is doing is illegal and despicable.

This kind of thing is so physically and mentally draining. Sigh.

I need sunshine. I must find a way out of news.

Looking forward to my campus tour series.

Looking forward to pottery in Yingge tomorrow.

Friday, 18 May 2007

Drinking culture shock

There's a drinking culture in Taiwan that even after 2 1/2 years of living here, I still can't get used to.

Wealthy people (or those that want to portray themselves as wealthy) like to show that they have good taste and are of high class by buying expensive wines and liquor. However, they bring these expensive drinks to dinner with friends, pour them up to the rim of the glass and down them like tequila with a disgusting maggot in the bottom. It's like watching a barbarian scarf down foie gras without chewing a single time. Perhaps the appreciation for these people isn't in the taste or the process that these fine drinks came to be, instead, it's the satisfaction of spending lots of money buying them. Personally, I appreciate value and taste more than the money, so I'm still having a very hard time getting used to it.

The other day, I experienced another drinking culture shock. I was late to a dinner due to work, and on the way, I got a phone call telling me to hurry up. For having left work early to attend dinner, I thought the "hurry up" was quite rude, but that was just the beginning. As soon as I arrived and sat down, a glass of wine was put in front of me and several boys said, "the rules are, if you're late, you have to drink three glasses, right as you get in." It's easy for them to drink lots, since they've nearly finished their meal, but I just sat down with an empty stomach tied in a knot from "hurrying up." "How inconsiderate of them," I thought. And then "how rude," I later realized. How gentlemanly is it to force a lady to drink? Because it was a friend's friends, I tried to rationalize it, and even consulted a close girl friend, who suggested I eat or take stomach medicine before coming to dinner. I thought I would try that the next time. However, the thought didn't sit well in my stomach, and I don't think it's something I can do after all. They can keep their frat boy culture to themselves, but if they want to force it upon me, I'm afraid it's simply too disrespectful and harmful for my health.

Culture shock indeed. If this is Taiwanese, then I'm not.

Recharged and ready to go

I was in Tokyo for the past six days, recharging my drained body and spirit.

After spending quality time with Mama and Grandpa, meeting old friends, making new ones and walking through the city, I feel refreshed and recharged. For a while I lost myself. But now I feel strong and I have plans again.

For the rest of this month, I'm going to:
- making a series of 校園之美 (beautiful campuses) reports, which introduce special scenery from different campuses, including historical buildings, beautiful landscape or architecture
- shape up my body and get ready for the 40 km hike next month
- make one piece of pottery in 鶯歌 (Yingge) to de-stress
- go home to Danshui to spend time with Mom and Dad next weekend and be a good girl
- tell Afu what it is about the relationship that is really bothering me and getting on the right page

Now I feel organized.

Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Sanli TV and Formosa TV "fascist and biased"

In this morning's paper, pro-China (blue, or KMT/PFP) leaning newspaper China Times quoted pro-independence (green, or DPP/TSU, DPP in this case) Legislator Hong Chi-Chang as saying that Sanli TV (SETV) and Formosa TV (FTV) are showing fascist characteristics and whose political commentary shows leave practically no room for fair discussion. Boy, has this been coming. But since both SETV and FTV are both green-leaning, it's interesting how Hong would attack media whose political news support his own party. Ethically, perhaps it's the noble thing to do, but some may call it unpractical. However, this bring into light how some media has been blatantly taking sides in political campaigns, especially recently during the DPP presidential primaries. To show support for particular candidates, political commentary shows at SETV and FTV have been accused of verbally attacking opposition candidates even if they are from the same party. It's ironic how politicians call for solidarity when in fact many of their actions show otherwise. It's a pity that the those who get the most media attention in this country are the those who show the worst side of human nature.

I'm just thankful that I'm on the lifestyle team and only occasionally need to face the political farce around here.

Afterthoughts on KMT council member protest

Since the violent Shanghai street execution was of KMT soldiers shooting communist men, women and children, I'm not sure if last night's protest by the Taipei KMT council members was very wise at all. Perhaps the downside risk is that it would draw even more attention to the violence of KMT soldiers. It definitely opens themselves up to criticism by other parties.

Ratatouille




I want to see this! It has the elements from some of my favorite things in life - cartoon, fun, food, American humor, fictional story telling and (of recent) FRANCE.

Trailer:
http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/ratatouille/

A nine-minute preview for those interested:
http://www.apple.com/trailers/disney/ratatouille/preview.html

Media ethics in question once again

(Photo retrieved from Internet)

Taiwan's media ethics have been called to question once again. Following TVBS News' fabricated video of an gunman displaying weapons and threatening to kill his mob boss in March, and another TVBS story where a reporter failed to fact check a report that ducks that were said to be plucked using tar last December, today Sanli TV was accused of using video from a gruesome and violent Shanghai execution when in fact, the story Sanli TV was presenting was about the 28 February 1947 massacre in Taiwan.

(Photo retrieved from Internet)

Here's the full story in Chinese from UDN:
影片移花接木 三立228報導造假
http://udn.com/NEWS/NATIONAL/NATS1/3835945.shtml

(Photo retrieved from Internet)

And here is the response from the editor-in-chief of Sanli TV, also from UDN:
陳雅琳:母帶內容 三立未造假
http://udn.com/NEWS/NATIONAL/NATS1/3835947.shtml

(Photo retrieved from Internet)

Chen Yaling, the editor-in-chief of Sanli TV and also the host of the show called into question, responded in a press conference by saying she did not intend to mislead the audience, and said that the foundation whom they acquired the footage from did not tell them that the footage was not of the 228 massacre. She issued no apology.

Whether this is a case of footage misuse or failure to check facts remains a point of contention, but the quality of news reporting in Taiwan has certainly been called to question once again. Personally, I think this is just one of the manifestations of poor ethics and control in the industry here, and I'm not surprised that it's surfaced. The lack of ethics and quality that is generally prevalent in TV news here in Taiwan is really quite serious.

For an even more pessimistic point of view, please read a trusted colleague's blog here:
總編輯的臉皮...............
http://www.wretch.cc/blog/twkk2007&article_id=7958789

And to add a twist to all of this, seven KMT council members staged a protest at Sanli TV's headquarters after Chen Yaling denied any wrongdoing. They demanded that Sanli TV and Chen Yaling admit to false reporting and to apologize to the public for causing unnecessary strife among the Massacre victims' families and creating tension among society. However, some may think they had two alter motives - to draw attention to themselves and to draw attention away from the extent of the KMT's wrongdoings in the Massacre. I did a live coverage of the protest. And perhaps it looked like a highly charged stand-off on TV, but seemed more like a rehearsed show (like it always does) from where I was standing.

(Photo taken with my mobile phone)

Politicians from all sides are accused of abusing power to get media attention, and on my fourth night on the shift, the general sentiment was that it was the KMT's turn.

It's been a long day, but a mentally fruitful one. I worked on two stories in the afternoon, one in the evening, had a confidence-boosting screen test after that and spent two and a half hours on my feet in the cold outside of Sanli TV headquarters covering the protest. I'm just glad I was well prepared in my yellow and grey Mountain Hardwear jacket, platform heels and cute little backpack.

Monday, 7 May 2007

Starbucks break


Tonight's my third night on the night shift, and same as last night, I'm watching Vice President Annette Lu. Last night, she appeared on CTI TV and tonight, she's on ETTV. My assignment right now is to get a comment from her as she enters and exits the tv station. Last night, she came in fourth in the presidential primaries. And while the guys who came in second and third announced their withdrawal, Lu said she plans on fighting to the end.

About thirty minutes ago, she entered ETTV without giving a comment, and she'll be coming out in a while, which at that time I will have to try again. Meanwhile, I've made my way to a Starbucks nearby. I don't usually cover politics, but I finally understand what reporters on the beat mean when they say, when you're busy, you're really busy, and when things are slow, they're really slow. And I suppose when things are slow, they have a cup of tea. But once again, I'm reminded of how untasty food and drinks at Starbucks are.

Interview with Uncle Terry


This was taken after an exclusive interview with Uncle Terry about moving to Fox Conn. I'm really thankful to him for holding off talking to other media until we made our report.

Two and half years ago, it was Uncle Terry who helped me put my foot in the door in the TV business. He was going to an interview at UBN (非凡) and since he heard that I was interested in getting started in financial TV, he brought me to the taping, despite the fact that Dad was against the whole idea. At the taping, he introduced me to the producer of the show he was going on, Corona Li, who later introduced me to the head of news gathering. Although I ended up not getting into UBN and instead coming to Formosa TV, Corona and I became friends, and I still often go to her for advice.

So 30 months ago, I went with him as a fresh graduate and hopeful, watching the interview happen as a guest from the sub-control room. Now I'm the one conducing the interview, and now that I think about it, I think I've reached a small milestone. Perhaps this is a sign that I'll be making some more progress in the near future.

We were chatting about signs and hints in life after the interview. He said that when he was still at HP and was living in Beijing, his brother-in-law's family came to meet him from Dallas, and he discovered that he has lots of extended family in Dallas. Until then, Uncle Terry had no idea that he had anything to do with Dallas or Texas. Not long after the visit, he was hired by Texas Instruments, and has been flying back and forth between here and Dallas for the last 10 years. He said that in retrospect, the visit from his brother-in-law and realizing that he has family in Dallas were sure signs. I was rather surprised that someone who is so logical and rational believes in things that don't have scientific evidence to back them.

Now the question is, how do we catch these signs as they happen, and what do we do with this information? I suppose that's a sensitivity that takes a lot of instinct and training to develop.

If the interview was a sign, then perhaps I'll soon again cross paths with new friends and opportunities for change. If that's the case, then I must work hard and prepare myself for when it happens. But I'm always working hard and preparing for things to happen. So I suppose I'll just go on doing what I've been doing and just look forward to new happenings and changes to come.

Lovely scene

I think this is somewhere in China. It came in a mass email forward, but I paid special attention to it because it's so serene and beautiful, and it reminds me of Mama's woodblock prints.

Flowers from Amy and Takeki

I visited their new organic shop and restaurant in Taichung after giving a speech at Fengjia University in March or April. After dinner there, they sent me off with these flowers.

It's so nice to have flowers in my room!

Snapshots from the office

Fellow reporters and friends

Abby


and Lily


View from the rooftop


I didn't know we had such a wonderful view!

Friday, 4 May 2007