On the sports field, athletes try their best to unlock their full potential and strive for the championships. Beyond the field, there are workers who keep sports events running and spectators who cheer the athletes passionately from the stands. In addition, a group of unsung heroes give athletes their full attention, document their shining moments on the game day, and cover the blood, sweat and tears behind the scene in forms of text-based and multimedia stories. They are sports journalists. Edith Chong Yuen-ching, currently a sports reporter at a TV station, was enrolled in IVE’s Higher Diploma programme in Public Relations and Media Business after graduating from secondary school. She went on to earn a degree from a university and embarked on her journey as a reporter after trying her luck in the public relations industry. Since then, she was determined to tell every story on the sports ground with all her heart. In the past few years, Edith has covered the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, Tokyo Olympics and 14th National Games in Shaanxi last year. For younger VTC students interested in launching their career as sports journalists, she advised them not to get too hung up on the salary and working hours, and be willing to give the job a try.
Edith Chong seems skinny on TV when she reports sporting news and hosts programmes, but she is much stronger than her looks. As an extrovert who enjoys good conversations, she has been planning her career path since her secondary school years, hoping to find a job that involves communications with people. After the HKCE exam, Edith was enrolled in the Higher Diploma programme in Public Relations and Media Business at IVE. Up till now, she still remembers those days vividly. “We had video editing and photography classes in the multimedia studio.
Those classes were new to me and I found them very interesting. Another wonderful class was news writing, which was completely different from Chinese composition classes in a secondary school. A journalist needs to grasp the core messages in simple and concise language and the class helped us master the skills required in the actual workplace, laying a solid foundation for our career to thrive upon.” During the three years she spent at IVE, Edith actively took part in school activities and discovered her talent in churning out new ideas and public speaking. She became even more confident about her future career direction from then on.
“I prefer a job that requires working outside the office while offering a varied job experience. Though my first job wasn’t strictly a media job, I was heading in that direction early on.”
Some time ago, Edith had set herself a goal of enrolling in the bachelor’s degree programme in journalism and communication at a local university. Her goal was achieved in 2013 after she graduated from IVE. Meanwhile, thanks to her friends’ referrals, she also started working part time in the sector of public relations (PR), helping out in event management to accumulate relevant experiences. After she was conferred with her bachelor’s degree, she made the logical decision to join a PR agency. However, she found herself struggling to adapt to the corporate culture. The company championed a division of labour so fine that Edith was only exposed to few tasks of organising an event. She admitted that the job was quite a bit different from what she expected. That’s why she resigned without hesitation.
But what were her options if she didn’t pursue a career in PR? Edith gave that question some thought and remembered a sports journalist training programme she took during her study. She took classes one full day each week and made acquaintances with some highly regarded reporters. “All the instructors are veteran sports journalists. They taught us sports photography, programme production and writing skills. We got a taste of what it’s like to be a sports reporter.” In fact, one of the instructors did ask her if she was interested in being a sports reporter. Yet, Edith had already got an offer from the PR agency at that time, so she turned down the opportunity. By the time she quitted her job, she thought to herself, there’s no harm giving it a try. So she decisively left the PR industry and took a different path. She has been a sports journalist ever since.
“When I first worked for an online media as a reporter, the workload was just overwhelming. From the conception of a story and interviewing the subjects, to taking photos, shooting videos and editing them, I had to take care of all the pre- and post-production by myself. That was an excellent training ground. I was given intensive, tough training with a steep learning curve, and of course, it could be frustrating at times.”
Edith has always loved sports, but was less familiar with non-racquet ball games, such as basketball and football. As a reporter, she was once sent to cover a local basketball match, but she had never watched a basketball game before that. “I didn’t know the players and couldn’t figure out who’s who. I was also the photographer and needed to capture the scene from the best angle whenever a player tries to score. How a photo was shot reflects how professional you are. I had to document the whole game with photos. After taking photos, I had to conduct interviews, write the story and edit the footages – all to be done ASAP so that the story could go online at the soonest possible time.”
Edith conceded that it took her more than half a year to adapt to the fast pace of the online media and the stress that derived from making judgements constantly. That being said, she also found the joy of being a sports reporter in due course. “I love writing sports profiles as it gives me more time to interview and understand the athletes. I can also approach the subjects from a slightly more emotional angle. Maybe it’s because I don’t like language that is too straight-forward and cold.” And from time to time, she was inspired by the stories of athletes enduring hardships to achieve success at last.
In 2018, Edith travelled to Indonesia to cover the Asian Games and it turned out to be an experience of a lifetime. On the eve of the Games, she received the news of her grandmother’s death. Deeply saddened, she decided to set off for Indonesia as scheduled with support and encouragement from her family. This was also the first time she covered a large-scale sports event by herself.
“Even though I had colleagues who offered support remotely from Hong Kong, I was the only one at the venue and I had to make decisions in most cases. Who should I interview? What should I capture on camera? Which event should I give up when there’s a clash of schedule? It was a stringent test of judgement on my part at every moment. I had to be very clear about what I wanted content-wise. I carried three or four cameras with me every day. I had to visit a few places with a backpack full of gears. And I often needed to run quickly to snatch a good spot before someone else did.”
She remembered spending three days in the mountains to cover the cycling road races. She also visited the old town with some Hongkongers residing in Indonesia. Covering the Asian Games was a tough job, but she found it lots of fun and it contributed to her growth as a journalist.
After spending more than a year at the online media, Edith switched job to work for a TV station. Four years have passed and her work has been ranging from reporting daily sports news to hosting feature programmes. Last year, she even had the chance to cover the Tokyo Olympics in charge of interviewing Hong Kong athletes, and had the honour to witness Hong Kong team’s most fruitful Olympics in history. She excitedly recalled the most unforgettable moment at the Tokyo Olympics, which was watching the fencing athlete Edgar Cheung Ka-long win Hong Kong’s second Olympic gold medal in history. “We were at the stadium all day from 9 am to 9 pm, following Edgar Cheung’s every match. We were so nervous for him. None of the reporters dared to interview him between the matches for fear of distracting him. I was thrilled to have witnessed his road to winning gold, and the memory will stay with me for a lifetime.
Five years have lapsed since Edith launched her career as a sports journalist and she still passionately loves her job. In recent years, media workers have been challenged by news content generated by artificial intelligence, or the so-called automated journalism. While some people describe journalism as a sunset industry, Edith believes the personal relationships between sports reporters and athletes cannot be replaced by technologies. Thus, in her opinion, sports journalists covering sports events still have a competitive edge over artificial intelligence. In future, she hopes to cover more specialised sports games abroad, such as the Australian Open or NBA tournaments in the U.S. She also encouraged younger VTC students to join the industry, as long as they don’t mind the less-generous salary and long working hours, and are willing to give the job a try.
"When you have the opportunity to travel around the world to cover various events like world-class sports games, you may be willing to accept a less-attractive job package, such as a lower salary. But for fresh graduates straight out of school, there’s no harm trying your luck in journalism for a year or two. You’d get to know many people along the way and those connections you make may prove useful to your career development within or beyond the media industry in future.”