When Tan Ley Teng decided to step up in front of the camera, little did she know that that bold move would change her life and career forever. Today, she is well known in the media circle as one of NTV7’s most recognisable news anchors and the host for the popular children’s game show, Mandarin Battle Star.
Apart from performing on screen, the Taiping-born lass has posed for the covers of magazines and is currently an ambassador for her alma mater, the Han Chiang College, from which she graduated with a Diploma in Mass Communications. She has also earned a Bachelor of Liberal Arts in Journalism from the Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan. In this interview with Chivalrystyle.com, the bubbly television personality talks about her career and what it means to excel in it.
How did you end up as a news anchor?
It was totally unexpected. After graduation, I landed my first job at a newspaper but a year later, in order to gain more experience conducting interviews, I turned to the state-run television channel RTM2 to work as a news reporter. Two years later, during the heyday of Hong Ju Khee (a celebrity news anchor), RTM began recruiting more news anchors so I took this opportunity to be one at RTM2. After a year, I left RTM2 and joined NTV7 with whom I have remained till this day. I really did not expect to be a news anchor because my major is in journalism. After graduation, my initial ambition was to be a journalist for a newspaper or magazine. I enjoy writing, so working in front of a camera was something I did not envision.
As the ambassador for the Han Chiang Institute, have you any thoughts of becoming a teacher?
I believe that many people wanted to be teachers when they were children. But now, I feel that I am not up for it. Although I have spent about 10 years in the media, I think my experience is not enough as I still have much to learn. Unless I have more than 20 or 30 years of experience, or am involved in reporting major cases, only then will I have a comprehensive understanding of the media.
You once said that a television news anchor or reporter may also be the director. What do you mean?
Actually, what I mean is that when you’re a television news reporter, you’ll also feel like a director. Most people say that news is objective but in fact, it’s not. Because in covering the news, we will choose to focus on what we want to tell to our audience, and cut or rearrange information accordingly without changing the facts. Hence, I am like a director because I can choose to focus on or emphasise any particular aspect of the story.
Of course, I am not a true director because I cannot invent the story, it has to be the truth. Thus, I feel that as a journalist with a pen or camera in my hand, if the information I have is insufficient, the story that I present will not be the truth and I can easily mislead my audience. For instance, I can easily present an issue or describe a person in either a positive or negative light. As members of the media, we have a responsibility to our audience. We have a role to play. Although we try to be as objective as possible, we do have our own opinions and biases as well. But if we are constantly reminding ourselves to stay true to our responsibility, then I believe that we can excel in our roles. We should never underestimate our audience’s ability to think and judge so we should leave it to them to form their own opinions while presenting the news as objectively as possible.
You are also the host for the game show Mandarin Battle Star. How is that different from being a news anchor? Are there other types of programmes that you wish to try hosting?
As a news anchor, I have to be serious and keep my feelings and thoughts to myself so as to not influence the views of others. But as the host of an interesting TV programme, I need to be extroverted and to know how to express myself. I am allowed to have a strong personality and my own ideas. Of course, I also hope for the opportunity to challenge myself with more diverse types of programmes, such as fashion- and beauty-related shows.
What have you gained the most from being a journalist for so many years?
Our influence is small, and there are many shortcomings. But this job also gives us strength and we do feel touched when for example, we make a report and someone sends us a message through Facebook or e-mail telling us that we’re doing the right thing. But we also get our share of criticism as well. I think that the media industry, more so than others, is more prone to getting feedback. Sometimes when I read letters or emails from my audience, I get a sense of encouragement because there are many who support me.
Everyone faces difficulties in their working environment. Sometimes we gain something good, but at other times, we will lose something we care about. However, there will always be a sense of accomplishment. Although my audience has only seen me briefly on TV, they are still willing to give me support and encouragement. I find this very touching. That is definitely the best benefit of working in the media. cs