Career Path

An inborn desire for journalism

by Cindy Chan

Reporter – Television
Oliver Lu
Director of news
Phoenix Satellite Television Co. Ltd

Early in his childhood, Oliver Lu had a strong desire to become a journalist, although he did not exactly know what journalism was about.

Majoring in history at university, Mr Lu, now director of news at Phoenix Satellite Television Co. Ltd., whose 24-hour Chinese Channel and InfoNews Channel are based in Hong Kong and broadcast through local and mainland cable systems, put aside his dream. He explains that, at that time, journalism was like propaganda in mainland China and that he chose history because "it includes one's feelings about journalism, culture, philosophy and politics".

But, finally, his passion won. "There are things in life which are destined to happen, which we call fate, whether you believe it or not," he notes.

Mr Lu has been in the media industry for 20 years, engaging in printed media, radio and television broadcasting and covering sports, social and international news. At the beginning, he thought of becoming a poet or novelist but he soon realised that journalism was more suitable because he was "active and quick". He values his talent for writing good feature stories at short notice. "It's like taking snapshots. Not only can I get hold of the news, but also react quickly," he explains.

"You have to assess yourself, whether you have an interest in journalism and a sensitiveness to news"

"Snapshots" are taken at even higher speed in television broadcasting, which has entered a new era where electronic media dominates the scene, he says. "Television broadcasting has two advantages: one is speed and the other is the ability to bring the audience to the scene. For example, when covering war, television broadcasting leads the audience to the war scene almost at the same time as the war takes place." However, he admits that electronic media cannot replace printed media, as the latter can explore a story in depth and words can touch readers in a different way to images.

As the news director, Mr Lu's daily tasks are to discuss the day's hot topics with colleagues and decide on assignments. He also selects suitable topics for feature stories to supplement the news bulletin, which is run at hourly intervals.

Since China is Phoenix TV's major market, the station mainly reports on news outside the mainland. Established on 31 March 1996, the company targets the huge Chinese audience throughout the world and its channels are now broadcast in the Greater China Region, South-East Asia, Europe and the US. Mr Lu believes that it has "a mission to make a change to the usual practice of journalism on the mainland". He describes the Hong Kong media industry as prosperous, believing it is the product of Western values on media and local culture. However, he does not see much room for development. Although news is news, journalism has a commercial value, he says.

In Hong Kong, the salaries of journalists are not low, but they are not encouraged to become stars or brand names. "In the US, things are different. Reporters are often older, with years of experience. They do the reporting and act as presenters at the same time," he says. If local journalists develop their career in this direction, they may ask for higher salaries.

Mr Lu says that an inborn desire and sensitiveness to journalism are what matter. "Not everyone can perform well in journalism. It's not like some young people think: hard work can solve any problems," he says, "You have to assess yourself, whether you have an interest in journalism and a sensitiveness to news."

Moreover, successful journalists should have a wide range of knowledge - although they do not need to be experts in every subject. They should be shameless, because they may sometimes be rejected or pushed and dragged off by security guards, and fearless, because they need to run forward - even at a war scene. Journalists should not expect a nine-to-seven work schedule, as events worth reporting may occur at any time. But it is still worth the fatigue, Mr Lu says, as "the happiest thing for a journalist is to catch first-hand news".

China Opportunities

Mr Lu says that it is difficult for Hong Kong people to join the media industry in mainland China as they have to be familiar with its socio-political environment and human behaviour before starting a career in journalism. Hong Kong journalists may be more experienced than their mainland counterparts, but they are less tactful and crafty.

While he still sees room for development in the mainland media industry, he points out the difficulty of entering this market. "Sometimes, you just can't make one more step forward, because you will get into trouble when you cross the border into a restricted area of politics," he explains.

This depends greatly on the government's willingness to open the market to foreign investments. If foreign investors are allowed to enter the mainland market, he says, the media industry should see further development.


Taken from Career Times 18 July 2003, p. 24
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