After filming the lighting of celebratory firecrackers outside Ma Ying-jeou’s home, I interviewed some neighbors gathered at the park across the street from the apartment building.
Me: now that your neighbor’s about to become the next president, how do you feel?
Neighbor: so good that I have no words to describe it!
Me: but he’ll have to move away and into the presidential office. Won’t you be sad?
Neighbor: I’ll be sad, but I think the presidential office needs him too.
Me: what do you hope he’ll change or improve?
Neighbor: I hope he’ll be able to fix our education system and put more effort into culture and arts developments.
Then someone asks, “hey, what station are you from?” This neighbor takes a look at my microphone, which says “民視 FTV,” and starts angrily pointing his finger at me, shouting how biased FTV is, how lousy its news reports are, over and over again. (FTV was founded and is owned by DPP supporters. Many of the upper management still are DPP supporters.) I kept quiet and hoped the man would go away. I wasn’t so lucky. All of a sudden, it became a crowd of about 30, with five or six pointing fingers and yelling at me about FTV. They were in front of me and to my left. Then reporters and cameramen from other stations rushed over and filmed from my right. I was totally closed in, and the madness was intensifying and coming up on the verge of becoming violent. I did not talk or yell back, I just kept bowing, smiling and praying that it would stop. And then one man stood out and said “come on, she’s just a reporter, it’s the management that’s the problem. She has no say in this.” Then others chimed in and said, “you have to get rid of the top, you have to get rid of the top.” Things began to cool down. Eventually, it settled, and some even said “民視加油！” That was even scarier than searching for the decomposing body of a brutal murder victim in the mountains in the middle of the night.
Where was the San-li TV (who is even more DPP leaning than FTV) reporter in all of this? Hiding behind a tree. I don’t blame her. All I have to say is, good thing the DPP didn’t win. My fate may have been different if it had won.
Reporters do get verbally and physically attacked sometimes, however not often. This usually happens when emotionally charged people see a reporter working for a TV station that leans towards the other party. This is why at political rallies, I make sure to wear neutral colors, so people won’t get the impression that I support one party or another. One of my friends and coworker decided to test his luck and wore the FTV-issued jacket (which happens to be red) to the pro-Chen rally two years ago. Because the anti-Chen guys chose red as their color, when the pro-Chen people saw red, they went nuts and attacked him. Also on the same day, an anchor for CTI TV (KMT leaning) was attacked by Chen supporters during his live broadcast from the rally location. Chen is DPP. Ironically, although that anchor works for CTI TV, he personally is a strong DPP supporter.
But these things work both ways.
After the former secretary-general of the ministry of education spoke inappropriately about Ma Ying-jeou’s father, he went into hiding. Everyone on the education beat was looking for him because he had not given a statement or interview since the incident. Everyone called and called and called and left text messages on his mobile. I did too. I wrote “Hi Prof Zhuang, this is Michella Jade Weng of Formosa TV. I know you’ve been through a lot the past few days and I’m sure you have lots on your mind. If you feel like sharing, we will be more than happy to meet you. But in any case, please do take care of yourself.” That night at 22h00 when I was on my way home from work, he called me! He even gave me another phone number to reach him at. I was ecstatic, because now I have a way of getting a hold of him and can also get an interview. He also told me, “I only trust FTV and San-li TV that you guys will not twist my words around.” Well, FTV and San-li are the two green cable news stations. Surprise, surprise. Right after his phone call, I rang my chief editor and got her voice mail. I left a message, but she didn’t call back. I knew it wasn’t good. The next morning, she patted my shoulder and said “you’re a good reporter, but from our company’s standpoint, until after elections, uh, uh…” I finished the sentence for her, “it would be better if he had disappeared.” I was disappointed that I couldn’t do the story and I was disappointed that ethics once again meant nothing. But the moral of the story is, leaning to a party can make or break you, and if you maneuver well enough, it can be very helpful and get you places. However, I’m too simpleminded for this kind of thing. If they had me do political news every day, I think I’d last only a week.
在選前, uh, uh…”
Government offices have media budgets, and some use it to make embedded advertising. When poorly done, it looks like government propaganda. When well done, it looks like news. Some of it is news worthy though. However, when you’re taking money from a specific government office, you don’t want to turn around and criticize it. So add that to the fact that the ruling party is your friend, how much criticism can a reporter make? In other words, how unbiased can the reporter be?
Without going into details and getting myself fired, I’ll just say that FTV reporters will be able to criticize and scrutinize the incoming government’s policies and doings and finally practice some decent journalism.