Journalism and I: A Love Story
My first acquaintance with the love of my life was hardly romantic. My grandpa was sitting in front of the television trying his best to ignore me while I buzzed around him like a bee, trying to convince him that homework is meaningless. Halfway through my list of 101 reasons not to do homework, he threw his hands back and sighed: "Oh, jolly. It's like I'm watching two TVs at the same time!"
My heart stoppedand I was suddenly transfixed by a vision - I saw myself all dressed up in a fancy suit and pearl necklaces and recounting on big events of the day. And not just to my stubborn gramps, who never pays attention anyways, but to the world. The audience wept, they cried, they smiled and cheered at what I had to say. Millions of people went to sleep knowing they'd hear my voice the next day.
At that moment, I fell head over heels for journalism. Like all teenage love, it was an affair of the heart untroubled by reason. I walked around my block, talking with street vendors, cleaning ladies and classmates who ran away from home with my recorder pen. Nights went by with me locked in the toilet and recording and replaying the monologue of my show. When my mum suggested a more traditional job like teacher or nurse, I'd laugh and shock her by saying that I will visit prisons and war zones as a reporter. It felt as adventurous as telling them I wanted to be a tattooed heavy metal singer. Everything about the relationship sounded rebellious and fun.
But as with all torrid affairs, my love for journalism slowly burnt out like a glorious Roman candle. And like a pair of young lovers we went our separate ways and I had a string of other lovers. One week, I was the next food critic for the Michelin Guide, another week I was becoming the first Chinese female director to win an Academy Award. My passions never endured and I was Elizabeth Taylor, desperate for the safety of marriage yet reluctant to stay in a relationship.
When I enrolled two years ago at the Communication University of China, one of the best journalistic schools in the country, through a series of chance events, I was re-introduced to my former love.
The rediscovery of journalism wasn't as I expected. But the more I came to truly know journalism, the more engaged I became. I’ve come to realize that journalism is both a window through which to see the world and also a funhouse mirror that can distort the truth. On national TV, I saw tawdry cover-ups and doctored facts reported without skepticism in an effort to create a harmonious society. In overseas news outlets, I read ridiculous rumors about China eating dead babies and living in absolute poverty under authoritarian rule. At times, China was depicted as little more than Chairman Mao doing Kungfu while riding a rickshaw.
Joseph Pulitzer once said: “Our republic and its press will rise or fall together.”All the disingenuous opinions, so-called facts and active misinformation in the so-called news, both local and foreign, made me fear for the future.
A voice inside me was dying to come out. I wanted to set the record straight, for people both inside and outside China. Journalism was all I could think about from the minute I woke up. The sheer contrast between what I saw with my own eyes and what I read kept reminding me to run into the arms of journalism. And so, I was in love once more, but this time guided by the piercing light of reason.
It’s the same, but it is also difference. My desire to shine an uncompromising light onto all that is crucial to China is no longer simply a heart-felt dream, though that is still true. It is now also a responsibility, a vocation, a calling formed in the purifying crucible of the mind. Though my heart still propels me to my destiny, it is my head that guides me along the path.
There will undoubtedly be times on my journey that I will wish I had chosen a less demanding partner but, no matter what happens, I know that together journalism and I will soar to new heights and report back to the world all that we see and learn.