This isn’t a general guideline on how to be a journalist. This is the story of how I ended up here, with great experiences but not quite Christiana Amanpour.
Papa wanted me to become a doctor, but the sight of blood makes me faint. That would’ve been bad during med school eh? So I followed my passion, a similar path Papa took — and my Uncle, and some of my cousins (yes, I guess it is in our blood).
I studied journalism for print, dabbling in photography and very little in broadcasting. But the first job I got when I left uni was in broadcasting. I did my internship in that company and they were impressed with my work so they hired me the moment I graduated. It was scary because I didn’t have ample background in the industry. I crashed coursed my way into it, saying yes to the tasks given to me. I was lucky my boss was patient. He taught me everything I needed to learn and let me play with my role.
I did news, I wrote scripts for ads and special TV features, I directed shows, edited them, even did some camera work. I locked myself up in the editing room for hours. I used to come in at 11am and leave at 11pm. That was my life. One time, I was still in the office at 2am when a fire broke out. I called my cameraman and he arrived on a motorcycle as it’s faster and easier to take through the streets where the fire was. My cameraman was driving the bike so I tucked my notebook and pen into my jeans behind my back, and balanced the microphone and video camera on my lap, while my other hand was holding on to my cameraman’s shoulder. In hindsight, it would have been easier to go home and get a backpack, or any bag for that matter.
At the scene, I climbed fences, walked through ruble, even flirted with the fire crew – all before 3am. That’s how I got my name as the Fire Queen (I got all the fire stories after that, go figure).
We finished getting the story by 4am and went to a 24-hour diner so I could eat dinner/breakfast. Adrenalin does make you forget hunger.
If you think that journalists immediately know what to do because we’ve been trained at it, then you’re quite wrong. I was winging everything. I had a lot of first time experiences on the job and I needed to learn on the spot. If there was a skill I needed to master before the job, it was how to look cool under pressure.
My boss thought I was pretty talented (I was very much into gadgets and computers, very techy) and so he placed me inside the editing room to experiment on commercials, TV specials, feature stories and more. He basically gave me free reign over anything and everything that I can do. To this day, I’m still grateful for that trust. Because of that, I was able to expand my skills to writing scripts for commercials and politicians, making ads (including political ads), shooting commercials, directing, editing etc.
During a live coverage of a national election, I was locked inside the editing suite, putting together footage for all the stories going live. I was in there for over 24 hours, with no sleep, running on various foods they delivered in the room. I had my music on full blast and only ran out for toilet breaks. It made me realise I’m not claustrophobic (as long as there is a toilet).
That began my journey to working behind the camera. During festival coverage, I used to wear shorts and sneakers and run around the street screaming directions and instructions to the cameramen, the hosts, the production assistants and the police (“push that woman out of my shot!”). Because of the company logo, we were pretty much given a lot of room (the company is quite big and popular).
It worked out well for the two years that I was there. They were my family, and I always keep in touch with them when I go back home to visit. But then I got the scholarship for my masters degree in Singapore and I had no choice but to leave. They knew it was the right thing to do, and although there were tears, they let me go with much love.
Next story: A new station, a new assignment – this time with bombs, military and dead rebels.