There’s something about being by the beach, taking in the sound of the waves, breeze of the wind…
During the day, sometimes, it can get a bit too hot. But over here in Boao of China’s Hainan province, it’s sunny and yet somewhat cooling – that’s what you get for being in a sub-tropical climate place in April. It was also a view I was lucky enough to have for a little over a week.
Except that, I didn’t quite feel the peace that I should. (A pity, I know…)
Almost a week back, I thought to myself: I have possibly faced my first major career disappointment so far as a journalist. (Cue: Drama-nya…)
If I had completed this post back when I was still in Boao, the subtle takeaways may have been more negative. But now that I am back in Beijing, I am feeling all calm and dandy, and in fact have even almost forgotten about the entire ordeal.
(Although, of course, I STILL want to blog about it… #handsitchy. But really, it’s also to remind me that if and when something similar happens in the future, I’ll know better to how to deal with it – just chill, man)
So what happened was: I was not issued my reporter’s pass to cover the Boao Forum for Asia 2018.
To some it may not seem like a big deal. “Just take it easy, enjoy the free paid holiday,” some would say; don’t have to go scouting for extra work, you know. But to me, I was feeling the exact opposite.
Passion… patience tested
Within days of arriving at the town, most were issued their passes. I thought mine was just gonna take a day or two longer. And I didn’t think too much into it as I was working on a last-minute assigned package.
But when the day before the forum kick-started came and I had to forego two assignments, I felt something was amiss. Not wanting to just sit around and wait for our team secretary (who is super nice and patient) to help push the forum’s organizing committee, I attempted to take matters in my own hands, i,e. play an active role in getting my pass.
I was, of course, feeling extremely frustrated and helpless then – being at the registration center two days in a row, offering any help that I can or exploring any other possible ways of getting my pass… but to no avail. At that point, I almost felt like I was “begging” for a right which I was technically granted of, and for a job I worked hard for.
(Two months ago when I was asked if I’d like to be a part of the reporting team for this forum, I said yes; and when all of us were asked to register online, I received the confirmation email as well)
Tested was how I felt at that point. I was looking forward to the forum for weeks. Although I didn’t know of the forum back then, I read up. I was also worried leading up to it because I want to do a good job. I know I can do a good job. Forums are my thing, what more when it’s business news.
Knowing that I didn’t have much time to prepare for the forum (had back-to-back assignments prior), and that I was lacking in my constant keep-up of news (unlike back during BFM days where I write the daily business news bulletins and have the Bloomberg terminal right in front of me)… days before leaving for the trip, I did a mini marathon of researching, saving and printing news reports — according to categories — for me to read during the plane ride… #bingeread
…all whilst also trying my luck on a new video editing software in a borrowed laptop.
I am not a quitter, neither am I one who gives up easily. Whilst pushing for my pass I was also on one-hand liaising with my interviewees on a possible Plan B, as I was still hopeful to be able to be at the forum on the 10th and 11th.
All the back and forth of communicating and rearranging logistics (I’ll save you the details of it), I finally surrendered to fate that my pass will not be issued at all.
Now, there was this one company which I painstakingly landed in the past month (a Singapore-listed company and that’s all I’m going to say of it). I did my research, quarterly reports and all, and gave my questions well ahead of time. The communications department was very prompt and quick to get back to me, which was good.
All was going fairly normal, despite the company (a Chinese lady took over since) kept pushing me for a specific interview location. I wished I could confirm with them days or even weeks before, but my answer was reliant on others to pass on to me, and with the team so huge it was hard to get a straight-up confirmation asap.
And when I told the comms lady about my tricky situation–of the possibility of not being issued a pass–and asked if we can explore other locations i.e. the interviewee’s or our hotel, or at a cafe, she insisted no initially (only wanting the interview to be done at the conference venue with the forum’s backdrop) but eventually agreed to even considering it. Throughout our conversations, I remember at one point she threw me a line (in Mandarin) saying: Shouldn’t I have checked whether I got my pass before going to Boao?
The first thing that came to my mind was: Here I am, in my best interest to feature your company (which our channel and Chinese media wasn’t even familiar with), and you’re releasing this tone to me. Hailing from Malaysia, one of the value-adds I believe I can provide is a Southeast Asian perspective, speaking to corporates from this region which I may have heard or read of. In a way, I am providing this company with free airtime.
But of course, putting myself in her shoes as well, I replied to her very kindly and cordially: The entire team (more than 60 of us) came to Boao with none of us knowing either or of us were not going to be issued a pass. The hiccup was last-minute upon arriving. “I appreciate if you can put yourself in my position that I do not wish this to happen as well and I’m doing the best I can,” I told her.
I assured them over that if I can’t do the interview, do not worry as the interview will still go ahead, the same questions, it’s just a matter of who and where (most preferably where they would like to, of course…)
Alas, she agreed–after much persuasion–for the interview to be done at the fountain area outside the venue (where no pass is needed). I went to recce the place, took pictures upon her (among dozens of) requests. And when I told her two days before that there is an option of doing a live-interview, they took it up at the end and did not want a pre-recorded one anymore, although with a pre-recorded one means I could do the interview instead of my colleague doing it (which I found out later my team did not want me to take the risk of doing a live even at the fountain area for fear of being checked last minute).
As a reporter, I will always try my best to accommodate the company or interviewee, but this one was just…a hard one to crack. Granted, you have many levels of bosses to report to, and no one likes last-minute changes and surprises; but girlllll, your tone wasn’t nice. (A reminder to self that we should always seek to be professional and calm)
All ends well
Not wanting to wallow in sorrows, I helped in research and coming up with Q’s for my team mates’ interviews.
I would have loved to explore more interviews on my own but given my situation it was tough to arrange for one in such a short day’s notice, more so for it to be done somewhere outside the conference venue. Given as well that the channel sent a few big wig presenters, naturally, the high-level interviews are taken care of. Plus, interviews are not just interviews for me, I take time to read and give perspective to my conversations.
Knowing me, I can’t sit still – two days before, I contacted a CEO and I swear, the interviewee was the most accommodating and chilled ever. We had a good conversation at the hotel lobby I am staying at.
But of course my unlucky debacle didn’t end there – my borrowed laptop kept hanging on me while I tried to upload footage of the interview and finally tried to edit. What could have been done in two hours took me seven hours. Thank goodness for our cameraman from Guangzhou, Qipeng, who came to my rescue with his Mac book. Heart of gold, he has. I got to learn how to use FinalCut from scratch too!
Then came the challenge of sending back the edited interview to the channel in Beijing… there is a system, and somehow it wasn’t working for us! As if I did not have enough to handle already.
(Am also pretty sure I kept telling myself that being a TV reporter here is only 20 percent reporting and 80 percent doing the “other stuff”)
What I’ve learned
All said and done, I’ve realized and learned tons in this trip.
Firstly: Hope, anticipate; but do not pin your entire hopes on it. For example, the weeks prior of worrying, looking forward to this forum… there was no need to, basically. We should live in compartment-tight days (I quote Dale Carnegie HAHAH)
Secondly, given the worst case or situation you have at hand, think instead of what’s the best you can achieve out of it. Okay, so I don’t have my pass… how else can I be of help and useful? Great, my video editing laptop died on me and I can’t do the best with ,
Thirdly, this somewhat serves as a life-lesson for me too: to appreciate the good and smooth times when they happen (for example, say, when my laptop does work in the future, or when I get a pass and can enjoy the very basic access given to a journalist to do her job… we/ I take these for granted previously).
Oh, and from this forum I also realized that hard-hitting journalism does not apply everywhere and in every scenario. My team leader passed on a group interview with a former President of a country for me to do (which I can’t do in the end anyway), and the few questions I wrote in the form requesting for a one-to-one from the organizer–I was eventually told that I can’t even attend the group interview if I didn’t promise that I won’t ask my first four questions. #thefirstfourarethecrucialquestions #pressingquestions #criticallythoughtones (this is even after having mellowed down my questions in the ones I sent…)
And finally, when I was asked to deliver three live hits the next morning (after the forum ended), I took them on despite not having (the privilege to) covered the forum. I drew on insights from my previous package done in December on foreign banks in China.
Another lesson here: Things come full circle. Nothing that you do today is in vain. You may not reap or realize the results today, tomorrow, or even in weeks and months; but I assure you–you will, one day, if you keep hustling.
Funnily, I bought a skirt online from JD when I was at Boao, thinking I did not have enough skirts to wear (forgetfully only brought one). And as Boao is a little town, it took more than 10 days and a whole lot of “transits” before it could arrive…was already back in Beijing then.
Also, I did not bring my own laptop (which has VPN and a proper Microsoft Word).
With the two above; for one moment in my second day in Boao I thought: How was I gonna survive? Little did I know I did not get a pass anyway… LOL.
Some things to be grateful for: I got to see Boao, made a few new colleagues slash friends, and well, learned that I should have just chilled more the next time if and this should happen again.
Also, I have again learned to forgive when people make mistakes (it’s always unintentional), and knowing that hiccups are bound to happen especially in big events like these, as my parents tell me.
Gosh, writing can be so therapeutic. If you made it this far to this “essay”… you’re incredible.