Interviews 'a form of art'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 July, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2001, 12:00am

You were a researcher before you entered media. Is the nature of your present job different from your previous one?

The formats are not the same, but what I encounter is similar - the politics and current affairs.

I believe what I'm doing now is like performing. Being a reporter or a columnist is a kind of performance, I think. The product is an artistic result.

Did you take part in any student movement when you were at university?

In my time, not like the '70s, there was no student movement. Basically, the economic environment of Hong Kong in the late '80s was very good. Average students in our generation thought only about attaining higher academic achievements or finding a good job to earn more money. Student activism was not a reality of the times.

What's your opinion of politics?

Politics is a power game - a combat for power; there's no right or wrong.

In Hong Kong, I think the public is limited in its access to politics. The only way to take part is to vote, but the electorate in Hong Kong is very small.

It's difficult to produce a full-time politician in Hong Kong; this is related to the political culture. It's hard to take politics as your life.

There is also the problem of establishing political parties in Hong Kong; the process is very limited and not yet mature.

Do you think the political environment in Hong Kong is not ideal?

The political environment has not been ideal.

Legco is little more than a place for discussion, more or less like City Forum. All sorts of things could be discussed, but what would be done after?

Did you encounter any difficulty in becoming a radio programme presenter?

There were some difficulties in the beginning. In fact, I am not a very talkative person. I remember the first day I did a live broadcast, I was really nervous. I was so nervous I forgot how to breathe.

When you speak normally you don't forget how to breath, but in front of the mike, I couldn't understand why I seemed to have forgotten how to breathe. All I can remember was that I just wanted to finish what I was saying as soon as possible. When I forgot how to breathe, my voice started trembling, so I took a tape recording of my programme back home to listen. I also listen to other people's programmes to discover problems, and understand how to improve myself.

What has been your most memorable interview?

A few months ago I interviewed Secretary for Education and Manpower Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun in An Hour More. We talked about the education system and the benchmark tests. In the middle of the programme, she picked up a song - Beyond's Clear Skies, Vast Ocean - to play.

When the song ended, she started to cry until the programme ended. When I asked her why she was so sad, she said she had been touched by the song.

She heard from the song that Wong Ka-kui was condemning society, and she thought Hong Kong people had many complaints, but can only blame others for those problems.

Another recent interview was with legislators Lau Chin-shek and Chan Yuen-han on Mother's Day. They have a similar family background - Chan's mother has passed away and Lau is not able to see his mother in the mainland due to political problems.

I asked them to write a letter for their mother and to read the letter in the programme. They cried as they read the letters.

An Hour More is not like other talk shows or current affairs programmes. We add some sentimental things or show the guests' inner self, and talk about things seldom discussed in the mass media.

I tend to ask guests something about matters of the heart. We usually see only the superficial part of the politicians or celebrities - rarely their inner feelings.

What is the most significant skill in doing a talk show?

In doing a talk show, the way of asking questions should be very skilled in order to lead the guest to say what you want to know. The guest must have a sense of security.

If the guests feel insecure or uncomfortable, they won't tell you anything.

How do you feel about your job in broadcasting?

It's really challenging. News in Hong Kong changes very fast, and we have to keep up with it every moment. And our responses to the news have to be very fast too.

During phone-in programmes many unexpected things can happen.

Is broadcasting your career choice for life?

I haven't thought about that, but I want to keep doing it.

It's difficult to predict what direction my road will take in the future.

Name: Smile Cheung Siu-yung

Birthday: October 7

Birthplace: Hong Kong

Occupation: Radio presenter

Since 1993, Smile Cheung Siu-yung has been a Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) radio talk show and current affairs presenter as well as being involved in some TV production.

Before starting at RTHK, she conducted research studies in politics and current affairs following her graduation from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Cheung has interviewed hundreds of politicians and celebrities during her broadcasting career.

She visited the United States with her husband in 1997, and during a three-year break she continued her study and had a daughter.

Last year, she returned to RTHK and now hosts two programmes - Open Line Open Views and An Hour More.