I’ve hit 7 months as a business journalist and thought I’d do a little write-up on my journey thus far. And just as how we journalists seek to be as objective as we possibly can in our writing, I will strive to do the same for this piece as well.
Before I start, I’d like to highlight that I did not leave my previous company for this [job], as I’ve gotten queries from people about this. Not that it’s any wrong even if I did, but I just wanted to “clear” the air. I in fact took a 3 months break before the opportunity for journalism surfaced.
My initial intention was to join the eDGY team, the pull-out for generation Y who dreams big and are making a mark in their own ways. I’ve always had a soft spot for the “unsung heroes” or the underdogs as you may call it, especially those coming from the youth who has so much to offer. I actually had a little project going on with a friend on this as we speak, actually, but it didn’t kick-off full swing due to work and time commitments.
In the interview with my current company, I was however presented with the option of being a business writer. I took it nonetheless, and went far from regretting it. I, after all, love numbers… and especially having just left off (pretty) fresh from commercial banking, the transition to writing about corporates – albeit in news form and for the public to read now – was smoother than I thought.
As an industry though, journalism is very different from where I previously “graduated” from; in terms of the structure of things, the reporting hierarchy, visibility of KPIs, culture etc. And thus it would be unfair for me to compare it to my previous company/ industry: banking. Though I admit that I still think of my “ex” sometimes (which I’ll leave this for another post), at this very point in time, journalism is where I want to be. And I’d like to think that I’m adapting pretty well in this new environment too.
You know the saying that goes, “When you like what you’re doing, and you know you can do well given the time, you’ll stay no matter what, and try to wash out any challenges (biased or not)/ distractions that might sway you away from your focus on your end goal?” All because you’re internally and intrinsically driven. Well, that’s one of the reasons why I’m here (still) and I hope to still be here, unless… well, unless.
Anyhow, let’s get to the gist of the matter! I tend to really speak my mind when I write, I’m terrible.
Here’s a summary of the little things I’ve come to realize (along the way) in my current role thus far. In no particular order:
- It is impossible to please everyone with what you write
And in fact, I was told by people in the industry that you should not aim to please all parties when you write. Write what you think is right, what is right, and what the public is meant to know. THAT said, you gotta be sure that you write is of truth, of substance, makes sense, and correctly articulated as well. However, seeing as the readership spans across many parties: investors, interviewee subject (can be companies or individuals), the general public etc, and each of us comes with varied background in the matter (and thus affects our approach, thinking, and opinions as well)… not all that you write may be perceived well. Sometimes, even one small bit, be it a sentence or the lead, out of a whole good piece, can be “picked out”. I’m strictly of the view that if you’ve made a mistake, own it up; but if people are displeased just because, let it go. The beauty of this job is that the longer you’re in it, the better you get; in regards to the grasps of things, the way you relay a message, the background of it all. So we new journalists too hope that the readers can emphatise with us too sometimes 🙂
- It is a very independent industry
Where you’re pretty much on your own: you head out to cover assignments, come back to the office, brief your editor, write it, submit it, and that’s that. It’s not a job where team work is seen as a core value or trait. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just the nature of the job. Though looking at it positively, this “independence” can serve to be a good thing if used well. A colleague was once told me that it’s in this nature that you choose what you want to make out to be as a writer. I, for one, know that I do not want to be just a writer or journalist who “gets by”. If I’m gonna be in it, I’ll give my best in most aspects that is required of the job. Thus, besides my day-to-day reporting, I try hard to seize exclusive interviews, to break stories if possible, and to put in a certain depth or analysis in my pieces if given the time. A huge thank you to those – little did you know that you had – helped me in these areas! Also lastly, when I mean independence, I also mean that do not expect to receive much validation from your superiors or bosses. You’re on your own maturely, in finding stories, in building contacts, in monitoring your own growth. Again, not a bad thing, just how the industry is.
- Hit and run culture to an extent
For lack of a better word! We’re in a “news” business after all, I have to keep reminding myself. You write, it gets published, and you move on. Wrote a below par piece? Made a mistake? Make the clarification or correction, and look ahead to the day’s/ next day’s news! Don’t harp on what’s the past, I’ve been told. In a way it’s a good thing for someone like me as well, since I have the tendency to look back and hinge on what was done in the past (LOL)… well, sometimes.
- Sometimes, just sometimes, the piece turns out differently
As your piece first goes through the news editor, then the sub-editor; sometimes, just sometimes, your piece may be perceived differently by the editor and hence turned out somewhat differently too for certain parts. It has happened a few times to myself, where the original meaning of my sentences has been tweaked to something else. A few amendment or addition in words can really change the underlying meaning of something, especially if it’s a change in messaging from someone I spoke to who relayed to me… I do not wish to blame any party because the news business is a fast-paced one, with uber tight deadlines. I’m aware, I understand, and I’m accepting it. It’s just something I have to get used to. THAT said, the fact that your piece goes through an edit process, it can also go the other way, i.e. where your piece gets edited beautifully, sometimes having put in an extra point or two by the editor to add strength to your pieces. I’ve had a couple of pieces where my sentences flow were refined so well I was pleasantly happy.
- Gotta be agile and flexible to cover almost any range of topics
For the daily paper (which I’m writing for now), we get our assignments the late evening before, which still gives us time to prepare and research for the next day’s assignment. However, there are times when you get just half a day or a few hours notice to cover something, which can range from an exclusive interview, a press conference, a media roundtable etc. And this is where the time you’ve clocked in the industry truly comes in handy, because if you’ve been in the industry long enough, you’d have heard or know of the background of a lot more things/ companies. Also the fact that we write and cover almost any sector possible (before we choose to specialize in our “beat” that is), we have to be open-minded, agile, and stead-fast in our thinking. I was just thinking to myself the other day, the true test is when you are faced/ happen to bump into someone important at a place or event you did not expect to, and you know you gotta seize the opportunity to get a conversation started, you gotta be equipped and know what questions to ask (if not depth, at least breadth). This is one of the reasons why I love what I’m doing now, to challenge myself to read up and learn about something I don’t know or am not comfortable with, and write about it; and also to always force myself to be on my toes to think quick.
- It has been a tremendously rewarding journey thus far
This ties back to the point above, and most journalists would agree with me on this. Without actually realizing it, we are learning many many new things every single day. This is because we cover different news each day, from the economy to the equity market to companies of various sectors… we speak to various industry experts which we derive insights and opinions from to incorporate into our pieces. For example, just months ago I’d not know how does a REIT work or what to look out for/ ask when I cover a REIT assignment; or how would say, the recent Budget affect different sectors. And this is also one of the very core reasons why I’m driven by what this job has to offer. In a nutshell, the exposure has been great.
- HOWEVER, you’re in for a hard time if you’re a perfectionist
Like me, hehe. I can never craft out something or submit something I myself do not understand or am not comfortable with. More importantly, relating back to the point of sometimes when your pieces get edited inaccurately, I would (initially) dwell on it, I gotta admit, though now less already. I realize that I’ve to just let it go sometimes. It’s not like I’m writing a book or a novel; I’m writing news, for people to read and errr forget after? Hehe. On a somewhat unrelated note, if for pieces where I feel I did not contribute much, I would rather my byline not be there. Or if someone contributed a bit, I’d want his/her name to be in it too.
- It can be a competitive industry
Over time I have come to realize this. I remember there was once or twice where I made known a few of my story ideas or points, but to be given to someone else to write it. Of course I felt somewhat cheated but I also know that there are times when certain story ideas are given/ aided by the editors for you to write. Separately but adding on, I remember vaguely a colleague telling me that in this industry, some people tend to be a little more selfish in sharing contacts for it’s who breaks what news who gains recognition. I discarded that for I never thought it would ring true… I mean, I would very willingly share contacts if people were to ask me!
Now the above are just some of my thoughts at this (check) point of my career… In time to come I’m sure there will be other realizations, with a whole different level of challenges too. For example, in the beginning it was about having get used to basic reporting, getting your facts right and stories out in a very short time frame. Then it moved on to hunting for stories, obtaining stronger sources, bringing in more depth into your pieces in the same short time frame.
A quick shout-out to my family, and friends – some whom I haven’t spoken to in ages – for dropping a line when you come across my pieces! I’ve often heard that many weren’t sure if it was me at first, and discarded the thought thinking it’s just another person with the same name, until something affirmed them or until they check it with me.
From simple encouragements like they are happy and proud of me, to keep up the good work; to (shamelessly put) out-of-the-world encouragements like being disappointed just because I appeared on front page for a few days and “today don’t have”, or “I was so happy to know it’s you when I saw your name”, or even keeping tabs on me and asking me how come my piece(s) did not appear in the paper that day. Pressureee. Haha. But thanks so much guys, I appreciate it and I’m grateful 🙂
I guess finally, what I want to say is: Being in this industry has its perks, but ultimately, I want to be respected and liked for who I am as a person, rather than for the role I have. I’d like to believe that since young up till before I joined journalism, I have been regarded that way, and I intend to keep it that way.