Photos: Viet Tuan
The work of a reporter has never been easier than in this age of technology but identifying what's right and what's false has become problematic.
by Le Diem
With a bachelor’s degree in tourism, Ms. Huong Thao never thought she would end up as a reporter one day. Despite having neither the background nor the skills in media and journalism, she was still recommended for a job at Vietnam Television (VTV) by a friend on Facebook working there. With good communication skills and an active nature, she was considered to have the potential to become a reporter. And she proved such attitudes to be spot on. In just a few months on the job, some of her reports have caught widespread public attention. Digital development has created more opportunities in journalism but also a host of challenges.
News at hand
There are many news offices in Vietnam and, so, a lot of opportunities to work in journalism.
After graduating from the International Affairs Faculty at the Academy of Journalism and Communication, Mr. Danh Tuyen wanted to work in international affairs and applied to several different companies. After not receiving any feedback, he tried journalism; his second major. He soon received offers and has now worked for a local newspaper for two years.
With the development of the internet and social networks like Facebook and Twitter helping connect people, more possibilities are open to journalists and also to those with no journalism background.
This was not the first time Ms. Thao was offered a journalism job via Facebook. After sharing a few travel experiences and tips on her Facebook page she was asked by local travel sites to write for them.
Mr. Tuyen said that anyone with good writing skills can become a journalist. But writing skills are only a basic skill in journalism. To develop in the job requires a lot more skills, such as photography and video shooting, information sourcing, and using internet tools to upload news, he said.
In the digital age, the young generation also have more advantages in developing a journalism career.
The strong development of technology provides reporters and journalists with more convenient and better-quality equipment for their job, like voice recorders and cameras, according to Ms. Hai Hau, a student at the Academy of Journalism and Communication. “With a good smartphone we have ‘the full package’, with which we can take notes, record interviews, and shoot picture and videos,” she said.
“Millennials”, or those born in the late 1980s and the 1990s, are familiar with using advanced tools like smartphones, cameras, and software for images and video, which is another advantage in moving into journalism, according to Mr. Tuyen. As many are also “selfie” fans, they also know about angles and framing.
Accessing news and information from around the world is also much easier than ever, thanks to the internet and Google, Ms. Thao believes. Producing 15-20 short breaking news each day, she felt a lot of stress in the beginning. But after a while, with support from digital tools, she had no problems and spent less time putting stories together.
Connecting and approaching people for interviews, a key part of journalism, is also easier today, with support coming from websites, email, and social networks. Many reporters find contact information of important people like celebrities or government officials on Facebook and then connect with them. Some even become friends.
The technology era also brings more topics and angles for journalists to uncover, such as updates on the latest high-end devices or new trends in lifestyles, according to Ms. Hau. Moreover, through comments posted on social networks, reports can establish public perceptions of an issue and produce relevant articles.
Agreeing, Mr. Tuyen said that most online newspapers now follow Google Trend, to identify news that people are paying attention to, based on keywords. They then produce stories around this news. “It helps increase not only the number of views but also the reputation of our newspaper,” he said.
Sorting the chaff
The new digital age is a double-edged sword, however, making life both easier and more difficult for reporters.
The huge amount of information on the internet helps reporters find what they need with a few taps on their phone or keystrokes on their laptop but also results in many becoming passive and even lazy.
Prior to the internet age, reporters had to build their own information sources and identify the right approach to certain issues, which gave diversified angles and views on a particular subject, Mr. Tuyen said. When training young interns at his office, however, he has recognized that most just sit in front of a computer and collect news from other media sites and rarely go out into the real world. “Many articles end up having similar content, with just a few words being changed,” he said. “It’s not the reporter’s own product in their own style.”
Many news items, especially online, are short and shallow, according to Ms. Nguyen Phuong, a student at the Foreign Trade University. As reading and writing is her hobby, she was interested in working in journalism upon graduation. She said modern journalism is like fast food compared to the printed newspapers she read during her childhood, providing quick but ultimately unsatisfying news. Many items are forgotten within minutes, as they lack substance and analysis.
Meanwhile, news posted on social networks is more up-to-date, as people post about what is happening around them in real time, but the comments reveal the subjective views held by many, Ms. Phuong said.
Ms. Hau said she longer looks at news websites and instead just follows her friends on Facebook to find out is going on in Vietnam and the world. More news is being shared on Facebook every day, including from official newspapers and personal sources. “It’s more interesting to read news on Facebook, because most people want to share their views and whether like or dislike something they’ve just read and find out the thoughts of others, especially with hot news or scandals,” she said. “Many newspapers have comment sections but they don’t compare to what you see on Facebook.”
News on Facebook can be shared in seconds with just a few taps or clicks, and many newspapers have become increasingly reliant upon it. Too often, though, news items turn out be false, according to Ms. Thao. While some people intentionally write false news and post it to gain “likes” or “views”, some businesses take advantage of this to spread incorrect information about themselves or their competitors. “Everyone wants thrilling news that attracts readers,” said Ms. Thao. “But filtering out incorrect information from the millions of sources available on the internet and social network is the most important task for journalists today.”
- The work of a reporter