Shan Wang is a senior journalist at the Chongqing Morning News in China, working for both newspaper and digital news. As a social news journalist, she works to let the l voices in very difficult areas and deep mountains be heard by the society. Her stories have won many prizes in Chongqing city.
I’ve known her since I was her intern last summer. Even though she works with normal citizen’s stories, not be any famous people, I still find her work very impressive.
Her stories are all about real people and real life in the society, which made me feel very truthful. These stories of nobody made the city I was growing and living more warm and powerful. Her stories also changes people’s lives.
Wang might be not famous, her story is not about celebrity, but she is the most normal but also unusual journalist to me.
Xinyi Xie: Why do you choose to do this job?
Shan Wang: I was a journalism major during college, before I got the internship in this newspaper. I just thought working as a reporter I might have lots of chances to travel to different places, meet different people and listen their stories. After I worked with senior journalists, I realized from this job, I got the chance to experience lots of people’s life, and have the chance to help many people and change something.
XX: Sometimes, I realize that I’m having problems determining good interview questions. Have you ever had problems at the beginning of working? How you deal with that?
SW: At the beginning, I also had similar problems like yours. My professor told me “A good story was formed by two parts: interview and writing. 60% of your story was decided by your interview and 40% depending on your writing.” It is like you need to cook a great meal, first, you’ll need to buy enough food and other cooking materials. You need to find the details of the story, and prepare a lot for your interview.
Before I interview, I will do some research of my interviewee. And according to the actual situation, I might do some changes. It is always better to ask just one more question. And also, I will always keep the contact information of the interviewee, just in case I might have more questions latter.
XX: What is the hardest part after you step in this field?
SW: The hardest part is that some negative news is not allowed to publish. You know under the special condition of media with Chinese characteristics, the government has the right to control what was allowed to publish. There is some negative news about the society and sensitive topic might won’t be allowed to publish. Sometimes, after we took really long time and put lots of efforts in one news, there might be an announcement that “this is not suitable to publish” and there is nothing you could do with that. There is one time, I was sitting in car after interview, and I got a phone call from my supervisor who just told me to stop working on the story.
XX: What is the most impressive news story you’ve written?
SW: I wrote a story about a village teacher who was living and teaching in a really poor village. His name is Jiakui Pang. There is a large river between the road of students went to school, however people there were too poor to build a bridge. Thus, Pang decided to carry his students on his back and walk cross the river. He did this for 22 years.
After I heard the story of Pang, I decided to interview Pang with my colleges. The traffic was extremely terrible. It took us eight hours to drive in the mountain and seven hours walk in mountains to find the village. To finish a whole series of the story, I went to that village seven times and also ruined several pairs of shoes.
But all my efforts were worth. After the story was published, the government had noticed the problem, in five months there are many donations from all different sectors of society. There are people helped the village to build the bridge and also build a better school for kids.
I was so happy to know those students had better condition to study and had a safer way to go to school every day. Maybe this is the best part of the job, you are not only record their stories, or write down someone’s story, but also actually help some people, let their voice been heard by the society.
XX: What do you think about the changes in media field in recent years? How do you adapt?
SW: Of course, the traditional media such as newspapers are facing really big challenges, and some people might say “printing media is dying.” But I do not take this in such pessimistic way. The changes might also be chances. Because they are (traditional media workers) all professional workers in the field, if they started to working on digital media, their product will be more professionalization and specialization. Right now, the society was full of all different types of information and digital media, I believe it is still very important to have someone lead the voices. This still needs newspapers or TV news to provide formal and normalized interviews and news, to help audiences to find the truth.
XX: What did you do to adapt to these changes?
SW: Study. I always study and learn to deal with it. Try to enjoy the novelty from your heart, do not resist them. I don’t think you need to take it very difficult, do not scare of it, just enjoy and learn.
XX: Is there anything was not taught by your professors in school but you find its extremely important in working?
SW: You need to know that this is a really hard job. This job is full of pressures, especially sometimes you and your competitor might report the same story, it is very hard but important to find special point for your story to win. At that moment, you might feel very stressful but tired. But the only thing you can do is adjust yourself to it.
And this is a job with no stable time. You might do not have the time to eat at appropriate time, and you will not get a really weekend or vacation. That is also why I told you to eat breakfast before go to work because that is the only meal you might be able to control.
XX: Do you have any special tricks about interviewing that you can share?
SW: Well, it is very important to get along with your sources. You might have learned interview skills in school, but you will meet all different people and it is essential to build trust and build relationships between them. The only trick I have is always respect your source and learn perspective taking.