AAA Journalist-in-residence - Day 1: Reflection

Exactly why am I still doing this?

This is the question I have been pondering all day looking out of the window from the Asia Art Archive (AAA) library in Sheung Wan. It's been a grim day. I stare at the grey cloudy sky through the rain and wonder, what would've happened had I not become a journalist - to be precise, a cultural journalist?

Monday is the first day of the one-week Asia Art Archive Journalist-in-residence programme. The idea to to get a handful cultural journalists in Hong Kong to spend one week at the arts organisation so that we can utilise some 40,000 in the archive's collection to facilitate our reporting on arts and cultural topics. The programme is the first of its kind and four of us - Sylvia Chow from Hong Kong Economic Times, Tinny Cheng from Hong Kong Economic Journal, G Yeung, previously with Hong Kong Economic Journal and currently House News, and myself - are the first to take part in this experiment. We turn up for the orientation and get ourselves familiar with the AAA and library.

I manage to get my hands on some rare materials that I need for one of the stories I'm working on. As a reporter covering culture news as well as features and analysis, I'm constantly bombarded by endless deadlines. Sitting in this peaceful library researching one topic in depth is a luxury to me, and it also makes me reflect on my career.

This month marks the 13th anniversary of my journalism career. It all began in 2000 when I joined the South China Morning Post as a junior feature writer straight after university graduation. Back then, of course, I never thought that I would still be in the same business today. I was hired to help out on the content of this publication called 24/7, a weekly culture and entertainment guide published by the SCMP and produced by the feature desk, while writing culture and entertainment features for the newspaper.

Film and music were my main areas at the time. To a young film buff and music lover, it was a dream job. I was exposed to a world of dreams and fascination. Going to work never felt like going to work. I was having fun everyday.

Then few years later, one day I was asked to join the news section to develop a beat on culture, creative industries and entertainment. It was the time when the Hong Kong government began to take culture and creative industries seriously, in particular the film industry, to provide with policy support. It was new to Hong Kong, one of the six industries the government wanted to promote in addition to the four pillar industries - financial services, trading and logistics, tourism and producer and professional services.

Then in 2008 when the Legco approved the HK$21.6 billion upfront endowment for West Kowloon Cultural District, culture became an issue in the mainstream public discourse. The thriving art market also caught the eyes of the public. The knowledge and the cultural perspective I acquired from my past experiences then came in handy. I began covering cultural policy in addition to the usual arts and cultural events.

My job nature changes and expands as the society evolves. Cultural journalists aren't just about interviewing artists or previewing an art exhibition or a theatre show. They need to familiarise themselves with the city's operation, the political system and resources distribution. Cultural affairs aren't an isolated subject, but integrated into various sectors of the society and shaping our lives.

So why am I still doing this? This is the most interesting time for Hong Kong's cultural development, and I care, because this is my home.

The heavy rain stops and AAA is closing for the day. I pack my bags and head back to the news room to continue my work.


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