I was somewhat a lucky kid. At age 13 (same as Xiao-Hong, the book’s heroine) I had two dreams: one was to be an anchorwoman, the other was to write a book.
At age 30 both of my dreams had come true. I was anchoring at an Asian-language TV station serving Southern California, I had my own TV news magazine titled “To-wen’s World Report,” and my first book “Wēi zúy ǐ dào” (No Trivial Matter—The Story Behind News) was just published.
It was only when my dreams came true that I realized the reality of being an anchor and an author was not what I dreamed of.Through the years I’ve been to Haiti after earthquake and Mexico during drug war, witnessing the Hell on Earth that I couldn’t even imagine as a child. I experienced the bankruptcy of the TV station and the suicide of close colleagues. I have shared a bowl of noodle soup with a child prostitute in a police station in Taipei and split a taco with a homeless teenager in a tent in downtown San Diego.
I didn’t dream of all of these. I only dreamed of dressing up nicely, sitting glamorously, and speaking eloquently in front of a camera.A couple of years ago I was invited to give a “Anchor Kid” lesson at a summer camp. I saw many of those children longing for my job, but only for the beautiful part. I didn’t know how to tell them what they dreamed of wasn’t really what they dreamed of. I started to think.
The book, “Xiao-Hong the Anchor Girl,” was the result of my thinking. Thirteen-year-old Xiao-Hong made a wish and woke up the next day as a 30-year-old anchorwoman. And the rest of the story is my life story.
Xiao-Hong had to wake up at 3:00 AM and get ready for the morning news…because I had to when working at a TV station. Xiao-Hong and her partner, A-Jun, struggled with the decision to save a drowning child, or continue shooting the segment…because I struggled 12 years ago on my very first day at work. I will never forget the teenage boy who drowned to death. He taught me a precious lesson on my first day of being a reporter.
I summarized my whole career life in this children’s book with merely 10,000 Chinese words. I want to tell my young readers, yes, this seems to be glamorous work, but what lies behind it is cruelty probably beyond your imagination.
I want to tell my young readers why we, as journalists, can stand fast at our posts without regrets. It is not because we get to dress up nicely and sit glamorously in front of a camera. It is because we get to see the suffering firsthand; therefore we realized how lucky we ourselves are and what a great responsibility we have to bring what was cast aside to the world’s attention.
I also want to tell my young readers, if you still long for the job, even just for the beautiful part, please remember that at the very same moment you grab the freedom of press in your hand, the social responsibility falls on your shoulders automatically.
This is just a children’t book. And I only wish the kids who happen to read the book will bring us the finest journalism in the years to come.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by To-wen Tseng. Photo credit to Tzu Chi Foundation.