I have been at tbs eFM for one week now and it’s been eventful, to say the least. My producer, Christina Seo, told me to arrive at 7 am — in time for the start of This Morning with Alex Jensen, the show I am interning with. After observing the show’s machinations both inside and outside the studio, I was sent off on my first assignment — to report on the ceremony to mark the Seoul Mayor Park Won-Soon’s re-election.
Out the front of tbs eFM Radio. Photo by Brendan Day
Thankfully, I was just expected to observe as Simon, the show’s intern from RMIT University, was doing the piece for the next day’s show. As the ceremony was almost entirely in Korean, one of the show’s writers, Kyungmi, came along to help translate the speeches. I was tasked with approaching prospective interviewees, a somewhat difficult process since many of the people we asked appeared unconfident in their English ability and would hide shyly behind a companion.
After much diligence, we managed to secure multiple interviews with members of the crowd, and I was even able to conduct a couple of the interviews myself. Given my unfamiliarity with the Mayor and his policies, I kept the questions fairly vague and allowed the interview subjects to fill in the details themselves. It was an interesting ceremony — six honorary citizen mayors were also ‘elected’, and the whole thing ended with a conga line to the tune of John Lennon’s Imagine. Though it was ultimately recorded by Simon, I did get a credit as the package’s producer, marking it a successful first day.
The conga line breaks out! Photo by Brendan Day
The rest of my first week was mostly spent doing designated intern duties — updating the show’s social media presence and collating international headlines. When sourcing stories for the international headlines, it’s important at This Morning to use stories from a variety of providers. It demonstrates the breadth of our research and a lack of reliance on one news source, with the aim being to reduce any perceived bias. On my first morning I accidentally used two stories from AFP — published through different newspapers, but both credited to AFP — and had to quickly change the provider of one of them before the segment went to air. I chose to use The Hindustan Times instead, an Indian newspaper. However, it is not particularly well-known here in Seoul, and Christina advised me against using them for stories in the future for this reason — if people aren’t familiar with the source, they’re less likely to trust it. It’s a valuable lesson to learn in the news and current affairs industry, where trust and reliability are much sought-after attributes.
There were two other major tasks I was handed for the week. The first was researching and writing questions and an introduction for a discussion of Japan’s choice to reverse its constitution and invoke the right to collective self-defence. Japanese constitution is not a specialty of mine, so formulating appropriately informed questions required a great deal of prior research — especially as one of our guests was an American professor (whose nation agreed with Japan’s move) and the other a Korean professor (where Japan’s choice has been widely criticised). Going down a rabbit hole of history, I ended up writing far too many questions for the segment. Some of them were also fairly convoluted and specific in detail, which made it difficult for Alex to talk as extemporaneously and add his own knowledge like he usually does. Nevertheless, the segment came and passed without any hiccups and provided me with invaluable insight into writing for someone else. When interviewing someone, I like to formulate broader questions that are then informed by what the guests say and what I learn about the topic area — a style that is quite like Alex’s. You can listen to the segment here.
The final task from my first week was also the most nerve-wracking. Before my internship commenced, Christina had messaged me with the proposal of covering Korea R16, an annual international break-dancing tournament and urban culture festival held in Seoul. Though I lacked awareness of the break-dancing world, I was very happy that Christina had so quickly presented me with an opportunity to create my own package, and so I accepted. It was the first event that I’ve ever been given a press pass for, and the freedom it provided me was pretty exciting! I got a chance to stand at the side of the stage and witness up-close the incredible feats of athleticism performed by the dancers, and I was generally free to traipse wherever I felt like.
A tremendously blurry photo of the break-dancing from side-stage. Photo by Brendan Day
Though I had been scheduled to privately interview two break-dancers and a competition judge after the tournament, communication issues with my press contact meant that I was left on my own for a while. I interviewed members of several teams, but as these interviews were not in a quiet, secluded room but in a busy press room, the background noise made nearly all of them unusable. An interview with the legendary German b-boy Storm took place in a slightly quieter room, and my final interview — with the victorious Gamblerz crew — was in a completely private room. The Gamblerz crew are minor celebrities here in Korea, and interviewing eight of them (through a translator) proved to be a slightly daunting experience. Add in the fact that I forgot to correctly turn on the needlessly complicated recording system for the first ten minutes of my interview, and it had the hallmarks of a disaster. However, I managed to piece together enough usable sound-bites to make a three-minute package that went to air Tuesday morning.
A baseball match between Doosan and Samsung. Photo by Brendan Day
Just another day at the cat café. Photo by Brendan Day
In being so focused on the work at tbs I have largely had to neglect the unique cultural experiences Korea offers. To remedy this, Friday evening I travelled to a baseball match with Simon, Alex, and Anna, an Australian woman over here on modelling assignment, and on Saturday morning I visited one of Hongdae's cat cafés with another friend. With all of Saturday off I did get a chance to travel to a jjimjilbang, a Korean bathhouse, with Nick and Isabelle, a fellow intern from RMIT. With saunas, hot tubs, showers, and a multitude of other offerings, it was a pleasant way to detoxify after a lively Friday night. Going into the spa did require full disrobement, however, which is an activity I prefer to do whilst not in the company of strangers. In the interest of the reader, I’ll leave out the details and just write that I did what jjimjilbang users do. It was undeniably outside my comfort zone, but so too is this whole experience in Korea — and I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly so far.