I knew from conversations with previous Korea Herald fellows that interning at the paper would be a plunge in the deep end, and I have not been disappointed. In my very first minutes I was handed a brief to write up by my editor, Paul Kerry, and my finished product went on to be published online later that night.
I have made it as a journalist in Korea. Source: The Korea Herald
It’s unlikely to win me a Pulitzer — as it is essentially a 150-word blurb skimmed from a media release issued by a local charity concert and also lacks an actual byline — however at time of writing it has three likes on Facebook. In my eyes it officially makes me a published journalist in Korea.
My station at The Korea Herald's news desk. Double the computers equals double the publishing output. Photo by Nick Gowland
In the days since then, I have begun to settle into the nine hour rhythm of the news cycle here at The Korea Herald. I arrive in the office at nine in the morning, after battling my way through Seoul’s dense humidity and subway crowds. Mornings are spent gathering story ideas, which for now involves tearing through essentially every single English language Korean news outlet available online. The rest of the day is consumed by writing and editing (which has required me to familiarise myself with the in-house editing software), and sending an endless series of emails. At four in the afternoon I head to the coffee room with the other expat journos for final copy editing, where I have so far mostly been proofing the wire services. I am eternally grateful that I took the dreary but practical decision to spend the plane ride over familiarising myself with the 2005 Associated Press Stylebook, because I have now caught several errors in AFP stories, and even a few in a Reuters article. These small spelling and grammatical corrections have been my greatest accomplishment so far, and I cherish them even more dearly than the three other soon-to-be-published articles I have written. Take that, internationally renowned news agencies.
Xi Jinping makes his presence felt in the Capital. These guys were too busy protecting the Chinese Premier from that fountain to take pictures. Photo by Nick Gowland
An unexpected but welcome part of the interning experience at The Korea Herald has been the wide autonomy I’ve been given to pitch and write my own articles. My work over the past week has extended far beyond the expected intern duties of correcting spelling, copying files and collecting coffee. On my third day in the country I attended the launch of the “Australia–Korea Friendship Tree” project at the Australian Embassy. After enjoying my third free lunch in as many days and discovering what exactly an “augmented reality friendship tree” is (as it turns out, it's an interactive digital model of a tree, which is viewable after scanning a poster with a smartphone app), I undertook my very first interviews with the acting head of the Australian diplomatic mission in Seoul Brendan Berne, and with Friendship Tree project director Matt Jones. The small number of dedicated journalists at The Korea Herald means that the opportunity for out-of-office reporting seems limited, but I am sure that in the next few days, as I begin to find my feet in Seoul and get a feel for what is going on, both the depth and variety of my work will increase.
And I am glad that it will, because it has so far been an exciting week to work in the Korean media. Chinese Premier Xi Jinping has been in town on an official visit, North Korea continues to rattle every sabre in sight, and a (prescription) drug scandal has erupted in the ever volatile world of K-Pop gossip. With the prospect of a free trade deal with China on the horizon, it should be a very interesting month to be working at The Herald.
Sometimes Hongdae can feel a little too close to home. Pictured: AKF's tbs Intern Brendan Day and KBS intern Isabelle Waller. Photo by Nick Gowland
Outside office hours, the Hongdae area, where fellow Australia–Korea Foundation fellow Brendan Day and I are staying in has provided near constant fun. We have begun to sample its endless rows of cafes, bars and restaurants, and tonight will venture further afield to watch a Korean baseball league game with other AKF fellows. Thankfully, I have managed to keep cultural faux pas to a minimum, although Brendan and I were surprised to turn up at our hostel on the first night only to find that the separate dorm beds we had booked had been “upgraded” to a single double bed in a private room (we have since learned that in Korea it is perfectly normal for two friends of the same sex to sleep in a bed together). Thankfully, we have managed to borrow a spare mattress from a French couple in the room over to put on the floor in front of our door, which Brendan has stoically decided to sleep in because he has to be up nearly three hours before me to make it to the tbs morning show.