3 months, 6 issues, 30 events later I look back and find I’ve learnt so much from the little I’ve done. I started off with tiny events like school-based cross country races moving on to a business luncheon and now, a 30,000-strong crowd-puller.
Being a stringer (aka freelance reporter) is full of excitement. This Probie (NCIS jargon!) picked up several things along the way and realised that there is more to reporting than snapping photographs feverishly and interviewing well-known figures.
1. The Reporter knows the right time to arrive and leave. Punctuality has been an issue with me because I’m impeccably skillful at procrastination. There are several things to consider, namely, the venue, the expected crowd size, the availability of parking space, and traffic conditions. I used to stay throughout events – from welcoming speeches to good nights. But as I’ve learnt from more experienced reporters, you can attend an athletes’ dinner, listen to speeches, snap a few money shots, fill your stomach and leave right after that.
2. The Reporter possesses skills at making small talk. Most full-timers are extremely adept at making small talk especially on politics. I read politics, but I’m bad at commenting.
3. The Reporter is not shy. I’ve noticed that they are extremely comfortable having a hearty meal at functions, and can chat away happily with fellow reporters and organisers of events. The Chinese press members are a notably cheerful bunch. They poke fun at each other, laugh crazily, and discuss the best bak kut teh. They unhesitatingly ask people for business cards and dignitaries for speech scripts (yes, they are scripted).
4. The Reporter is quick-witted and spontaneous. A Chinese female reporter stood out at a business luncheon when she continuously pummelled a Taiwanese businessman with questions that were objective.
5. When in doubt, the Probie Reporter follows other reporters.
6. The Crowd and Organisers simply love media attention. After a while in the field, the Reporter doesn’t need to search, because work comes to you, and you gladly accept.
7. Reporters know each other. The Probie should make an introduction and you’ll be given translations of Chinese texts.
8. The Reporter enjoys perks. Lavish dinners, Sheaffer pens, first aid kits, sports T-shirts three sizes too big, front row seats. Meeting well-known personalities, eg. Marina Mahathir, Dr Sheikh Muszaphar, Amber Chia, politicians are extras.
9. Reporters are usually young. Running around, irregular working hours. It’s easy to see why.
A fellow colleague asked if I’d consider being a full-timer, and I cannot see myself doing this in the next ten years. Although it seems highly exciting, but the job controls your time and it can get tiring. I used to dislike the job mildly, because I don’t like crowds. I don’t get paid much, but I work little comparably. But as university intakes loom close by, I think I might miss being a Probie.