尋找新聞烏托邦──電視記者大風吹

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1999 / 4月

文‧滕淑芬 圖‧薛繼光



電子頻道大解放後,觀眾收看電視新聞的選擇從三家變成抴X家。為了填滿擴充後的電視新聞時段,電視台大舉向報社借才;無線、有線電視台的記者也流行大風吹。

每天為台灣民眾提供「知」的訊息的環境守望者,是為了更高的待遇,還是在尋找什麼樣的理想環境?他們奮鬥的目標是什麼?

統計數字顯示,台灣觀眾似乎特別喜歡看新聞。

根據行政院主計處民國八怳G年的調查,台灣民眾平均每天花二小時怳@分看電視,平均每天六小時的休閒時間,三分之一在盯著螢光幕;而收看率最高的電視節目正是新聞。中研院民族所八怚|年的研究也顯示,百分之八怚|的受訪民眾每天都會收看電視新聞及氣象預報;和五年前同樣的調查相比,數字上升了百分之五。

不做「傀儡」

因為觀眾愛看,所以新聞時段增長?或是因為新聞頻道一窩蜂竄出,吸引了觀眾的目光?

因果關係難以得知。可以確定的是,電視時段增多造就了記者的就業機會,讓他們頻頻轉換跑道,從報社跳到電視、從無線電視轉到有線電視。

四年前蕭隆祺放棄華視怑茪諝H上的年終獎金、轉赴以全球華人為目標的新頻道傳訊電視,因為「在三台跑政治新聞包袱太大,」他說。

民國八怳T年,因倡導台灣獨立而走避海外的政治學者彭明敏去國三怞~首次踏上台灣,蕭隆祺在中正機場採訪完後回到公司,這則新聞從組長、經理、總經理層層審核過才播出,他深深感覺距離新聞自由理想境界,實在太遠。

台灣觀眾印象更深刻的,可能是華視當家主播李艷秋八怳G年在獲頒金鐘獎時語驚四座,電視新聞常遭干預,她得到的只是「最佳傀儡獎」!

兩年前名主播李四端離開工作怳T年的台視,轉往有線電視TVBS,也曾喧騰一時。他說,離開是因為想做一個討論議題的新聞性節目,但無線電視台訴諸的是大眾,真正賺錢的時段就是每天晚上六點到斨I半這四個多小時,想在「黃金」時段做成本效益不划算的深度新聞性節目,根本不可能。新電視台成立,有機會做新節目而選擇不同環境,非常自然。

有線電視林立,新電視台首先將挖角目標對準三台有經驗的記者,但需求人力高的情況下,平面媒體記者也成為新電視台延攬的對象。

我還有夢

從無線跳到有線的電視人,或為拋掉政治壓力、或為生涯規劃;那麼報社記者轉赴影像媒體又為了什麼?

在聯合報主跑黨政新聞八年的黃玉振,現任以綜藝節目起家的三立電視台新聞部副總監。當初由報社到電視,外界傳說他被高薪挖角,他不得不解釋,「為錢離開真的沒道理。」

八怳郎~總統大選完後,行政院內閣改組醞釀的時間特別長,聯合報從發佈當時新聞局長胡志強將任駐美代表第一個獨家消息後,內閣改組的人事新聞一路領先,那一年光是獎金,黃玉振就領了幾抶U元。

「就像名主播李四端離開台視,很多人都說他瘋了,」黃玉振說,他卻能體會工作已達巔峰、頓失挑戰、等著升官,前景太過清楚的落寞心境。

也有記者看到的是文字結合影像「大媒體時代」的來臨,為了不讓自己缺席而轉換跑道。

一九七九年周天瑞擔任中國時報採訪主任,當時孫運璿任行政院長,台灣第一個讓政府官員面對電視鏡頭說明施政理念的節目就由中時、中央、聯合報三家報社的採訪主任策劃,周天瑞已經隱隱預見未來媒體將進入「電子化」時代。

一九八七年報禁即將解除前,周天瑞和時報同事創辦以批評時事、政治新聞為號召的「新新聞週刊」。

每到選舉,有黨政軍背景的三台新聞就備受「黨外」勢力攻擊,一九八九年是民進黨成立後台灣首次兩黨對決的縣市長選舉,為了見證歷史,周天瑞集資四百萬元,以新新聞的人力,策劃製作了兩黨對決、台獨之夢等八項主題的「新新聞電子版」,以錄影帶形式發行,但由於有線電視尚未開放、通路不廣,產品完成,卻也血本無歸。

迎接大媒體潮

一九九三年又逢選季,有線電視台已然林立,再度勾起周天瑞的舊夢。播映問題解決,周天瑞找齊報導二怳@縣市選情的隊伍,選前七天,每晚在有線電視台的國會頻道播出半小時《選情大家看》節目,許多人都預測,有線電視開放後,新新聞一定會成立頻道。

然而財力不足,工作夥伴意願也不強,「看到TVBS、傳訊、超視相繼成立,變成大媒體天下,我們開路卻沒有享受到成果,」周天瑞說,於是當昔日美洲中國時報的同事趙怡要創辦環球電視,「我是鐵了心,換跑道只是要圓一個夢。」

不少記者期望能在新電視台尋找另一片天空,數家電視台如傳訊、TVBS、民視、三立、超視等新聞部門主管也都來自平面媒體,那麼老闆想借助的又是他們哪方面的才能?

黃玉振不諱言,「深耕型」的報社記者和黨政關係良好的程度,遠遠超過電視記者。

曾任中時晚報總編輯、業務部總經理的傳訊電視總經理林國卿也指出,報社、電視記者的訓練、要求不同,電視作業時間短,記者到新聞現場先找鏡頭,再大的新聞也只有幾分鐘;報社記者比較有時間「扎根人脈關係」。

除了想借助報社記者與政界深厚的人脈關係,新電視台當然也想做出「不一樣」的新聞。

擔任過自立晚報總編輯、澳洲自立快報社長的胡元輝,現任第四家無線電視台民視新聞部經理,兩年前快報停刊後,TVBS就來與他接觸,當時他也覺得奇怪,自己和TVBS董事長邱復生沒有任何淵源,為什麼會找他?他記得邱復生回答他說,「就是要找非電視出身又懂新聞的人,才可以擺脫傳統制式的報導方式。」

影像要有張力

追尋理想而去的記者,可曾尋訪到心中的桃花源?文字、影像兩種語言的交會,又激盪出什麼樣的火花?

「最大的心境調整就是要有影像概念,」黃玉振說,中時、聯合報第二版的黨政要聞常常連一張照片也沒有,但是電視不同,「沒有影像的新聞就要丟掉,一點都不可惜。」

「一開始誰也瞧不起誰,搞文字的說電視太膚淺,是給不想花腦筋的人看;搞電視的說,你們只是把文字放在電視上,我的媒體比較有影響力,」TVBS新聞部經理陳浩說,其實文字、影像的本質都是要有故事;不過,電視新聞被「科技」牽制的程度更大,「電視新聞如何傳回來,永遠是大問題。」報社記者一到現場就可以開始寫新聞,但電視記者必須先花時間弄清楚新聞的傳送路線。

兩種媒體的作業、要求不同。黃玉振的調整之道是,「電視的深度應是廣度」。他表示,電視新聞以前常被批評為沒深度,但是如果像報社一樣「上窮碧落下黃泉」,寫到最後一定沒人看。所以像前省議長劉炳偉的跳票危機新聞,他會用五則不同角度的新聞來探討劉炳偉的政商脈絡,「用廣度來烘托深度」。

美麗的錯誤?

由無線轉有線的電視記者,又有何不同境遇、感受?

傳訊電視記者蕭隆祺說,電視開放後吃稿量大增,但還是以政治新聞掛帥。前一陣子,電視新聞大炒台北市公娼的反彈、抗爭,蕭隆祺就很想知道,四怞h位公娼拿了二億元的補償,同樣失業的台北市民,等市府或自己找到工作,又要花去多少成本?一千八百元的違規車輛拖吊費,這種懲罰性的條例是如何計算出來的?然而他雖然有心採訪,但每天例行性新聞已經讓他疲於奔命。

「如果媒體市場沒有這麼蓬勃,包括我在內的這些人都只能作到中級主管,」中天頻道主播葉樹姍說,如果當初她還留在台視,了不起是採訪組長,但媒體開放太厲害,職位都釋出了。於是陰錯陽差,不在她生涯規劃中的超視新聞部經理的職位,變成偶然出現的意外,她形容這是「美麗的錯誤」。

葉樹姍表示,從好的一面看是有線電視年輕有衝勁,壞的是商業與市場壓力的包袱更重,而新聞主管的職務並沒有大到可以抗拒一切不當舉措。擔任超視新聞部主管時,她常需面對「希望新聞配合廣告收益」的壓力。例如,麥當勞分店發生汽油彈事件,總經理就希望新聞能「淡化」、最好不要提麥當勞三個字,以免廣告商有所關切。

另一家有線電視台主管舉例,統一企業遭「千面人」恐嚇的新聞,業主希望全面壓制,像統一這種大企業「強悍的勢力任何電視台都得罪不了,」他說,但這種攸關民生權益的新聞怎麼能不處理,只好讓業務部門不高興了。

而其他像新產品上市,如美容業、信用卡、大哥大、汽車、飲料等常常出現的消費新聞,比平面媒體的「工商報導」還不顯眼,只要「包裝」好一點,處理成流行趨勢、理財資訊,不要太像廣告,一般民眾大概看不出來新聞後面的商業利益。

現實與理想間徘徊

商業壓力大,那麼政治干預呢?

周天瑞的原則是「寧為商業所用,不為政治所導」,產品介紹的新聞,還可以包裝一下,讓宣傳意味淡一點。何況電視台需要鈔票,只要不是「不走正途謀得的利益,惡形惡狀的商業來源」,他並不那麼排拒。但政治勢力他則堅決不妥協。

「行政工作就是要面對理想、現實間的距離和妥協,」民視新聞部經理胡元輝說,來自政治人物的關注或許有,但他敢說「不會比別人多」。他強調,不論來自商業或政治的關心,都是企圖影響新聞的走向,他都會從中尋找新聞點,或者採訪同類型產品,以降低商業色彩;或者從問題出發,而不單只是圍繞在一位政治人物身上。

頻道開放後,記者開始大風吹。從大量向平面媒體、無線電視台借才,然後幾家新聞部裁員,或者依市場勝負調整方向,電視新聞的季節風暴似乎暫時停息。

相對於自立報系日前因老闆自身的財務危機,發不出薪水又避不見面,導致員工走上街頭,台北市勞工局出面調解;電視業處理類似景況,平和許多。超視、傳訊都以比法令規定的優厚條件資遣,沒有激起太大漣漪。

而賺錢的有線新聞部則計劃擴大編制。由社會新聞出發的三立電視台一年前成立新聞部時,原本預計一個月賠五百萬,在衝刺一年後,竟然不賠反賺,因此準備朝完整新聞台方向規劃,增加新聞編制員額,以迎接總統大選的新聞戰。

黨政記者出身的三立新聞部副總監黃玉振說,由新聞部擴大成專業新聞台,他的壓力越來越大。因為如果政治新聞做的不好,外界一定認為「是我的問題」。

幾家歡樂幾家愁

電視新聞一收一放之間,市場供需也許又取得某種平衡。但對一些人而言,除非未來真有理念相合的環境,否則跑道已然轉向了。

周天瑞離開環球電視台後,本已決定不再置身電視台。後來超視的新買主美國新力公司有人遊說他,希望他能協助超視脫離每天例行性新聞的廝殺戰場,而專注在專題報導上,這個挑戰吸引了他。然而不到兩個月,周天瑞為什麼又轉任自立晚報社長?

周天瑞解釋,進入超視後,他發現電視台由一群無法做最後決策的受雇者在管理,其中的外國人大多希望以衛視中文台或HBO為楷模,走偶像劇、影片、電影等娛樂路線,但本地人又希望能製作專題報導來關懷本土。他說,目前超視內部自己都不清楚定位,即使沒有「自立」的因素他都會走。

電視記者頻頻轉換舞台,說明了第一線工作者並非不了解大環境的問題,但記者受雇於人,因此即使有怨氣、不滿,只是給自己壓力;或者將希望寄望在下一個跳槽的機會上。

機會、失望、成功,光鮮亮麗的電視環境吸引多少人懷著夢想前仆後繼,電視獨特的混亂與美好,讓電視人繼續追尋夢想,或者才理解幻滅是成長的開始?           

p88

頻道開放,記者轉換跑道的機會自然大增。圖為傳訊電視主控室。

p90

電子媒體有的發燒,有的裁員,平面媒體更是家家喊苦,媒體進入寒冬了嗎?圖為自立報系日前因老闆的財務危機而關閉早報,引發員工走上街頭。

p91

電視新聞最大壓力源──收視率。三家無線台的競爭尤其激烈,奪下第一,就要告知天下。

p92

多家電視新聞部主管都來自平面媒體:由左至右為民視新聞部經理胡元輝、三立電視台新聞部副總監黃玉振、TVBS 新聞部經理陳浩和自立晚報社長周天瑞。

p94

衛星密佈讓新聞傳播速度更快,秀才不出門,能知天下事,地球村早已來臨。但過多口味愈來愈重的新聞,會不會讓社會大眾越來越麻木不仁呢?

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近期文章

EN

Media Madness- Journalists Go Job-Hopping in Cable's Wake

Teng Sue-fen /photos courtesy of Hsueh Chi-kuang /tr. by Jonathan Barnard


Journalists Go Job-Hopping in Cable's WakeWith the rise of cable television, the number of stations on which the public can choose to watch news in Taiwan has risen from three to over a dozen. In order to fill up the growing time allotted to news in this new era, television stations have been raiding newspapers for employees. Meanwhile, reporters have been hopping back and forth between conventional and cable stations.

As "watchdogs" who day after day provide the public in Taiwan with "knowledge," are these news reporters changing jobs for higher salaries, or in the hope that they will find a more ideal working environment? What are they striving for?

The statistics clearly show that Taiwan's public has a special love of news.

According to a survey conducted by the Directorate General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, in 1993 the average person in Taiwan spent two hours and 11 minutes per day watching television. At that rate, one-third of the six daily hours of leisure enjoyed by an average Taiwanese is spent staring at the tube. The most popular type of television program, moreover, is news. In a survey conducted by the Academia Sinica's Institute of Ethnology, 84% of respondents said they watch news and weather forecasts every day. That's 5% more than five years earlier.

Refusing to be puppets

Has the time spent on news increased because the public wanted more? Or have the swarm of new news stations attracted the public's attention?

It's hard to know for sure which is the cause and which is the effect. What is certain is that as the amount of time devoted to news on television has grown, so have employment opportunities for news reporters. They have been job-hopping from one channel to another, from newspapers to television, and from the original three conventional broadcast stations to cable.

Four years ago, Hsiao Lung-chi gave up his job at CTS (Chinese Television Service) and its yearly bonus of more than 10 months' salary to work for CTN (Chinese Television Network), a cable group that targets Chinese communities worldwide. Why did he move? "The three main stations are too constrained in their political coverage," he explains.

In 1994, when the political scientist Peng Ming-min returned from three decades of exile abroad (he had fled after calling for Taiwanese independence), Hsiao returned from his interview with Peng at CKS International Airport to find that his piece had to be approved by three different levels of management before being aired. The experience left him feeling that this was far from the ideal of press freedom.

An incident that probably made a deeper impression on the Taiwanese public was the case of Li Yen-hsiu. Li won a Golden Bell (the Taiwan equivalent of an Emmy) for her work as CTS anchor in 1993, but was so frustrated by management's frequent interference that she complained that the award should have been for "best puppet"!

Two years ago, the famous anchorman Paul Lee created quite a stir when left Taiwan TV, where he had worked for 13 years, and moved to the cable station TVBS. He said he was changing stations because he wanted to create an issue-oriented news discussion show. The big three stations appeal to general audiences and only really make money in the four-and-a-half hours from 6:00 to 10:30 p.m. They would never broadcast an economically unviable news program during prime time. With the opportunities for a new work environment and new programming at the cable stations, the choice to leave was easy for him to make.

The cable stations first targeted reporters who already had television experience with the three original stations. But with so many news workers needed, the new stations extended their search to the print media.

Keeping a dream alive

The reporters that jumped from the three conventional stations to cable wanted to get out from under government pressure or to advance their careers. But why did print journalists want to switch to a visual media?

Huang Yu-chen, who covered political news for the United Daily News for eight years, is now vice director of news at SET (Sanlih Entertainment Television), a cable station that originally aired only variety shows. When he left the paper, there were rumors circulating that he had been lured away with a high salary, so that even now he feels compelled to explain, "Saying that I left for the money just doesn't make any sense."

After the presidential election in 1996, the cabinet reshuffle took unusually long. Beginning with appointment of Jason Hu, previously director of the Government Information Office, to head the Coordination Council for North American Affairs (a post akin to ambassador to America), Huang Yu-chen beat the competition to scoop after scoop. He took home hundreds of thousands of NT dollars in bonuses alone.

"It was just like when the famous anchor Paul Lee left TTV. Many people thought he was crazy," says Huang Yu-chen, who understands that Lee must have felt his career there was already cresting and that he was just waiting around for promotions. The clarity with which he could envisage his future there left him feeling at a loss.

Other newspaper journalists, seeing the coming of a "media golden age" where words would be combined with images, have left print media so as not to miss out.

Tenray Chou was director of reporting at the China Times in 1979, when Swun Yun-hsuan was ROC premier, and Taiwan's first television show in which government officials faced the camera to explain government policy was being aired. Chou planned the show jointly with the directors of reporting for the Central Daily News and the United Daily News. Even then Chou had a dim sense that the future lay with electronic media.

In 1987, before the ban on new newspapers was lifted, Chou and colleagues from the China Times started The Journalist, a magazine devoted to commentary on politics and current affairs.

Whenever elections roll around, the three conventional broadcast stations-which are owned respectively by the KMT, the government and the military-come under attack by the opposition. Following the establishment of the Democratic Progressive Party, the 1989 elections for county executives and mayors were the first truly contested elections in Taiwan. So as to serve as a witness to history, Chou gathered NT$4 million and organized Journalist staff to produce an electronic version of the magazine with eight main sections, including "The Parties Face Off" and "The Dream of Taiwanese Independence." These were distributed on tape, but because cable television was not yet well developed, the channels of distribution weren't broad enough, and they couldn't recoup their investment.

Welcoming a media tidal wave

In 1993, the election campaigns were once again the talk of the nation, but by then many cable stations had been established and the time seemed ripe for Chou to make another stab at realizing his old dream. He recruited teams to report on the 21 city and county elections, and their show, "Everyone Look at the Election Campaigns," was aired on a cable channel that focused on the legislature in the seven days running up to the elections. As a result, many people predicted that once the market for cable stations was formally opened, The Journalist would form its own station.

But the project lacked sufficient capital and the staff showed little enthusiasm. "With the establishment in rapid succession of CTN, TVBS, FTV and SET, you can see how the big media groups have taken over and how we paved the way but didn't reap any benefits." So when Chou heard that Chao Yi, a former colleague of his at the American edition of the China Times, was planning on creating GTV (Global Television), he "jumped at the chance of realizing a dream."

There are many newspaper reporters who have looked for greener career pastures at new cable stations, and many of the news department executives at such stations as CTN, TVBS, FTV, SET and STV originally worked for newspapers or other print media. Just what abilities did their bosses expect to tap?

Huang Yu-chen gets right to the point: Newspaper reporters, who are "deep plowers" of news, have much better contacts in government and political parties than most television reporters.

Lin Kuo-ching, the former editor-in-chief and general manager of the China Times Express, argues that newspaper and television reporters are trained differently to meet different needs. In television there is little time to prepare. Reporters go to the scene of the news and first try to find things to film. Even a big news story only gets a few minutes. Newspaper reporters have more time to "dig deep and cultivate contacts."

Apart from hoping to utilize newspaper reporters' extensive connections in government, the new cable television stations have also hired them to offer a "different" sort of television news.

Hu Yuan-hui, formerly editor-in-chief of the Independence Evening Post and the Independence Daily, a Chinese-language newspaper published in Australia, is now manager of the news department at Formosa Television (FTV). Two years ago, when the Australian paper closed, TVBS got in touch with him. Hu thought this rather odd, since he didn't know TVBS General Manager Chiu Fu-sheng from Adam and couldn't figure out why Chiu would approach him. Hu recalls that Chiu explained, "I am looking precisely for people outside of television who understand news, for they are the only ones who will be able to break free from the traditional methods of reporting television news."

Strong images

Can idealistic reporters really find their idea of paradise on cable? What sort of news reporting blooms in this media hybrid where words mix with moving images?

"The biggest mental adjustment is that you've got to foster an ability to visualize," says Huang Yu-chen. The second sections of the China Times and the United Daily News, where you find the political news, often lack pictures altogether. But television is different: "If there are no images, you dump the story-and have no regrets doing it."

"Everybody's first inclination is to look down on everybody else," says Chen Kao, head of news at TVBS. "Print newsmen say that television is too shallow, that it's for people who don't care to exercise their brains. And television journalists say, 'we're just putting the words on television, and our medium has more impact.'" Chen holds that both words and images are narrative in nature, yet news on television is more "constricted" by the medium. "On television there's always the problem of getting the footage back to the station." When newspaper reporters get to a news scene, they can just start scribbling away, whereas television reporters always first need to get a clear idea about the logistics of returning their reports.

The different media make different demands of their workers. When Huang Yu-chen moved to television, he said that he had to adjust to "depth being replaced with breadth." Although television news is often criticized for lacking depth, he argues that if its coverage was as thorough as newspapers', no one would watch it. Hence, when a firm owned by legislator Liu Ping-wei ran into trouble and started bouncing checks, Huang divided the story into five mini-stories with different news angles that probed Liu's business and political connections. "We went for breadth instead of depth."

Happy accidents

When television news reporters move from one of the conventional broadcast stations to cable, how do they find that circumstances and experiences differ?

Hsiao Lung-chi, a reporter for CTN, says that when the cable market opened, television began to consume much more news, but breaking political news remained paramount. Take the recent media feast over the Taipei City government's controversial decision to revoke licenses for prostitutes. At a time when 40-some prostitutes were receiving NT$200 million in compensation for being thrown out of work, Hsiao wanted to investigate how much other people laid off in Taipei would need as they waited to find a job on their own or for the city to find one for them. And he wanted to know how the city calculated the NT$1,800 towing charge for illegally parked cars. Although he still longed to do investigative reporting of this ilk, he found his days filled with routine news work.

"If the media market wasn't booming, then people like me would only be able to advance to middle management positions," says Stella Yeh, now an anchor at CTN. If she had stayed in the job she once had at TTV, she says that the highest position she could have attained was chief correspondent. But the great liberalization of the media changed her career, and she became for a time something that she had never put in her career sights: head of news at the cable station STV. She describes attaining the position as a "happy accident."

On the positive side, notes Yeh, cable television is young and full of energy. On the negative side, it is more commercial and faces greater market pressures, and as head of news she was not in a strong enough position to fight off these unwelcome encroachments of the market. She frequently found herself under pressure "to match news content with ad revenue." For instance, when several petrol bombs were set off at McDonald's franchises, the general manager wanted the news to be "toned down," ideally so that the name "McDonald's" wasn't even mentioned and a major source of advertising revenue wouldn't have its feathers ruffled.

Another news executive at a cable station recalls that when a blackmailer said he had inserted poison into some of the food products of President Enterprises, President wanted the news to be completely avoided. "No television station can afford to offend" an advertiser as powerful as President, he notes. Yet, in such a case, when a news story could have a deep impact on people's lives and rights, there was no choice but to displease the advertising client.

Other commercial intrusions, such as consumer news about new beauty products, credit cards, cellular phones, cars, drinks, and so forth, can be handled in ways less transparently pitch-like than the "commercial reports" written up in Taiwan newspapers. The stations have just got to spin it right, so that it appears to be financial news or news about some new trend. As long as it doesn't look too much like an advertisement, most viewers won't realize that commercial benefit is behind the report.

Between realism and idealism

So there's heavy commercial pressure, but what about political interference?

Tenray Chou subscribes to this basic principle: "I'd rather be used by industry than manipulated by the government." News about new products can be "packaged" so that there isn't much of an advertising flavor to it. "As long as you're not making money in truly inappropriate ways, and not from truly evil companies," he doesn't see anything inherently wrong with broadcasting those sort of product reports. But he makes no compromises when it comes to political influence.

"As an administrator, you have to make compromises when you bridge the gap between pragmatism and idealism," says Hu Yuan-hui, head of news for FTV. Hu states that government may sometimes try to influence him, but that he is "no more susceptible to it than anyone else." Both government and industry try to influence the approach taken with the news, he stresses, but he always looks for story angles based on newsworthiness. In the case of an advertiser that wants a story on their new product, he might report on competitors' products as well so as to make the piece seem less like a promotion. With political news, he might try to turn the focus of a report toward issues and away from individual politicians.

With so many new cable channels, reporters have been doing a lot of job-hopping. First, the cable stations raided the print media and the big three conventional stations for staff. But then some of these cable news departments started making layoffs or downsizing their staffs depending on how they were doing in the market wars. The season for explosive change in television news had ended.

Still, the situation in television news has never been as dire as it was at the Independence Post. When the Post ran into severe financial trouble and the owner was unable to pay salaries, he wouldn't even meet with the staff, forcing them to demonstrate. The Taipei City Bureau of Labor Affairs ended up mediating. Such problems are much more peaceably resolved in television news. When STV and CTN laid off employees, they offered severance pay in accordance with the law, and the staff reductions didn't create much of a stir.

Some of the cable stations that are making money have plans to expand their news departments. A year ago, when SET established its news department with a focus on what is termed "community news" (meaning crime, sex and other sensational topics), it originally expected to lose about NT$5 million a month. Now, a year later, they have discovered that they have actually been making money, and they have decided to turn into an all-news station, adding staff in anticipation of the media wars that are sure to erupt during the presidential election campaigns.

Huang Yu-chen, the vice director of news at STV, who was formerly a political news reporter, says that when STV expanded its news department in order to become an all-news station, he was put under greater and greater pressure. If the station did a poor job with political news, he explains, outsiders were sure to think it was "my fault."

Some happy, some sad

With some stations cutting back on television news and others expanding, it seems as if the market has attained a balance of supply and demand. Some who have already left the field say they would never come back now unless a station's news philosophy jibed with their own.

When Tenray Chou left GTV, he resolved not to work in television. But when the US Columbia Tri-Star Television Group bought STV, they let him know that they wanted him to help them get out of the rut of reporting only breaking news, and move the station toward a greater focus on special, in-depth reports. The challenge appealed to him. Yet why did not even two months go by before he changed jobs again, to become president of the Independence Evening Post?

Chou explains that after he joined STV he discovered that the station had a lot of people running things who couldn't make a final decision. Most of the foreigners working there wanted to follow the lead of Star TV or HBO and focus on entertainment, with movies, drama series and shows about pop idols. But the locals wanted to produce special reports that would convey their concern for their homeland. He says that the people at STV are all uncertain about their own positions, and that he would have left even if the job at the Post hadn't come up.

By constantly changing jobs, those on the front lines of television news show that they don't lack an understanding of the working environment. It's a pity that reporters are only employees, and have little power to change the way the stations are run. When they complain and express their dissatisfaction, they only put more pressure on themselves. Perhaps it makes more sense just to pin their hopes on the next job.

Amid so many opportunities, disappointments, and successes, the bright lights of television continue to attract. But do the special chaos and beauty of television actually allow people to realize their career dreams, or just teach them that disillusionment is the beginning of growth?

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When the cable market opened up, reporters gained new career opportunities. The photo shows STV's main newsroom.

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While some electronic media outlets have been booming, others have been laying people off, and most print media are having a tough go of it. The photo shows Independence Post workers demonstrating after the owner, facing a crash crunch, closed the Post's morning paper.

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The greatest source of pressure in television news is the ratings. The three conventional broadcast stations are locked in fierce competition, for which top ratings means victory.

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Many television news executives have backgrounds in print media. From left to right: Hu Yuan-hui, head of news at FTV; Huang Yu-chen, vice director of news at SET; Chen Hao, head of news at TVBS; and Tenray Chou, who is now back in print journalism at the Independence Evening Post.

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Satellites have made the transmission of news even faster. It is no longer necessary to leave your home to know what's going on in the world. The global village is already here. But is the growing sensationalism of much of the news turning the public numb and number?

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