Taking part in Young Post's two-week cadet programme is the closest thing to being a reporter while still in secondary school.
On my final week, I followed reporter Wong Tsui-kai to the Central Government Complex in Tamar for a media luncheon organised by the Home Affairs Bureau. The event promoted the bureau's volunteering schemes for young people.
We interviewed some of the volunteers, including Bobo Chiu Ka-hei, who helped at a secondary school on the mainland; and Tiffany Poon Man-yee, who was in Myanmar with the United Nations Volunteering Scheme. We also spoke to the bureau's principal assistant secretary, Vincent Fung.
I wasn't especially interested in the topic of the day, but the event was very interesting because I got to see first-hand the bulk of a reporter's work. Plus, there was free food!
First off, journalists from various media organisations exchanged name cards, and photographers took down the reporters' emails so they could send them the day's photos. Then the real work started.
Reporters asked lots of questions to clarify all the details, such as the exact amount of the monthly subsidy for volunteers, who funded the daily expenses, and how many people participated annually in each of the volunteering schemes.
This was awkward and tedious for me at first, but I came to understand that news reporting is all about giving the public as many facts as possible. Therefore, double verification - getting the same answer from two different sources - and asking factual questions is a big part of gathering information.
During the event, I also observed how the other side of the media - the public relations (PR) staff - works.
During the question-and-answer session, a PR officer reminded reporters to ask questions from all interviewees to ensure everyone had an equal chance to share their experiences.
This allowed more aspects of the volunteering scheme to be covered, and helped the interviewees to avoid embarrassment.
I could really see a love-hate relationship between reporters and PR staff.
Reporters might be a little annoyed that PR staff are trying to influence their articles by telling them what their client wants, but in the end, it was clear that the press needs the help of PR officers if they are to do a good job.
I realise now that organisations really want to present a good image to the media. Even after the interviews were over, when some reporters stayed behind to ask more questions, a PR officer was seen snooping around, probably to make sure the answers did not hurt their client.
After the event, we had to think of how to present the information in a news story.
We got a lot of information, but most of it wasn't newsworthy, so we had to sift through our notes and pick out the facts that would interest our readers.
We also had to decide how we should present the story: should it be a simple news report about the volunteer schemes, or should we focus on the volunteers' experiences, showing how meaningful such projects could be?
The interviews, brainstorming for a story angle, editing and verification - they made me realise that a reporter has to be detail-oriented. They also need to be courageous, prudent, and outgoing - crucial skills for a reporter, but they are also the key to success in many other areas of life.