Looking at Chip Tsao, more widely known as To Kit (陶傑), most people would only see him as a controversial commentator; some might even see him as, in his own words, notorious. Yet today, he takes on the role of a Warwick alum, as he shares his challenging journey with us.
When asked why he decided to pursue journalism as a career, Tsao laughs “I had no choice”. However, he adds that “journalism, unlike any other fields, is a stimulating and lively career in which you learn and experience new things every day”. He enjoys being updated on the latest current affairs and is excited about the challenges it brings. Tsao also describes journalism as a “career of power”, where you can select your own writing materials and sculpt an article with your own style of writing.
Good journalism is not only associated with competent writing, as some might believe. Journalists must be fluent with the language, and must adapt to the required writing styles with ease. As many writers tend to unconsciously write articles that present personal bias, Tsao strongly suggests an impartial tone when writing articles b to avoid additional subjectivity. Furthermore, Tsao also elaborates that journalism “is so much more than just about writing”. During an interview, the venue, the tone and the overall atmosphere can contribute to the interpretation of the interviewee. As an interviewer, you need to be sensitive and alert to such minute details. Extensive research on the interviewee’s background beforehand is therefore vital, as is the enquiry of audience’s interests, which its importance is often overlooked.
Advice for students
Other than being a prominent journalist, Tsao is also an artist who has had his work displayed in small exhibitions during his earlier years. When asked why he never pursued a career in art instead, Tsao chuckles, “I never chose to be an artist because I never thought I was as good as Picasso.” Painting was , and still is, merely an interest to him. Throughout this interview, however, Tsao was an advocate for those who chose a field where they had the potential to be the best. He further emphasized the importance of resisting affluence to defend your creativity or motivation. He indicates that Hong Kong teenagers nowadays lack motivation. Students should not take things for granted and should always fight for themselves. Students should also take advantage of their time abroad, master the English language, observe their surroundings and emmerse themselves in the local culture. “Try to learn another European language and maybe even Japanese. You will then be immune to ignorance”. As a journalist, you should always pay attention to your surroundings no matter where you are. Laughingly, Tsao reminds aspiring journalists to not, “just go shopping when you are travelling”.
Apart from that, Tsao stresses that to be well equipped “students should develop a habit of reading a spectrum of literature, be it on current society or ancient history.” He also asserts that English literature isn’t limited to top local schools, which is a huge stereotype and misconception in Hong Kong, and further recommends that those who are interested in journalism to read Times, The Economist and Financial Times’ articles and interviews.
Work experience is becoming more important, Tsao emphasized as well. Those who have the opportunity to gain work experience elsewhere should go for it. Although the issue of racism is getting increasingly perceptible, he encourages youngsters to disregard prejudice Tsao comments that students should “be ambitious; be even better than the locals” as he recalls his time with the BBC in England. He describes the enlightening experience as to be invaluable in comparison to what he had learnt at university.
Despite being the “career of power”, he concedes that journalism has become more gruelling and arduous today especially when our society value quantity over quality. Many may also recoil at the idea of travelling to places under the threat of terrorism, though this fortunately applies to war journalists.Thus, he advises those who are passionate about this occupation to be ready for any challenges it brings.
The authors of this article would like to thank Mr. Chip Tsao for his time and the valuable advice he shared with us.