The media is transforming at an unprecedented rate and breaking news can now become old news in a matter of hours. One person who has witnessed the metamorphosis in the way world news is delivered is Jolly Wong, principal anchor and reporter at i-Cable News Limited.
Ms Wong became a reporter for a local newspaper after completing an art degree at the University of Hong Kong. By chance, a neighbour introduced her to a news editor at i-Cable and four months later, the principal anchor rang and asked Ms Wong to attend an interview.
With little journalism experience, Ms Wong was a true novice in the industry. "I was very green. Everything was new and challenging to me," she says. Today, however with more than 10 years' experience in the industry, Ms Wong has witnessed stylistic changes in news broadcasting alongside a shift in the professional requirements of an anchor.
"In the past, fluent and clear articulation sufficed, but now these attributes are only a prerequisite," says Ms Wong. Today anchors need to fully understand the news and establish a personal image. In addition, new angles must be sought to report news in an innovative way which competes with newspapers and other media companies. "The pure news brief is essentially dead and every news report today becomes a colossal project, replete with its own challenges," she reveals.
Ms Wong naturally keeps abreast of all the latest news by watching reports on TV in the morning, checking assignments in the office and scouring newspapers to understand the different approaches other media companies have adopted to contemporary news.
Dressed for success
Ms Wong's professional duties include training colleagues, attending staff meetings with chief editors and reporters and ensuring her look is immaculate before she goes on air. "Choosing the correct wardrobe is an art in itself because an anchor's image sends clear messages to the audience," she says. "If both my colleague and I opt for black suits when we go on air this portrays a sombre image which may mislead viewers," she explains.
Ms Wong has found her reporting style is developing in line with current news trends. "In the past, our overall goal was to report news objectively. This is no longer enough to satisfy our audience. We now report newsworthy stories but also expand our scope with follow-up or linked incidents," she notes, adding that, "Perspectives are changing and we need to keep up-to-date with prevailing public sentiment when we present each news report."
In recent years, a number of new TV channels have emerged. In order to remain competitive, i-Cable News Limited has taken the initiative by adopting a livelier approach to news presentation. Ms Wong admits that balancing friendliness, liveliness and serious news content can be challenging. She cautions, "A casual and emotive style rarely works in this industry. There is a fine line between approachability and frivolity and we constantly review our style to ensure we maintain the right balance."
"When you are in love with your job, surmounting challenges becomes satisfying"
The next professional step for Ms Wong is to provide more comprehensive training to her colleagues and adopt a more proactive role in news production. "This role involves listening to reporters pitching stories, analysing their perspectives and considering how best to nurture each anchor's personal style. Anchors who fully understand the news deliver stories much more convincingly," she says.
Interaction with the general public has added value to the company and the industry as a whole. Ms Wong says, "Giving seminars and attending media interviews guarantee greater public exposure, and the experience widens our own perspectives and reinforces the professional image of a news anchor."
Many graduates aspire to a career in the field. Ms Wong advises extensive preparation for a tough time. "You must have passion for the job, keep updated and stay healthy. Forget about personal issues and emotions when you face the camera because the audience can deduce your emotional status from facial expressions. Analyse the news thoroughly and adopt an all-encompassing approach so you can cover any story," she explains. "Being a news anchor trains you to be a presentable, enthusiastic and outgoing professional. You learn to take the initiative and fix problems in a flexible manner."
Ms Wong's success story has become a career blueprint for prospective news anchors. "When you are in love with your job, surmounting challenges becomes satisfying," Ms Wong concludes.