Life as a Kpop Reporter…
When people ask me what I do for a living, I answer, “I’m a KPOP reporter“. Then I get “That sounds like an easy job!“ to which I reply, “You would think that, huh?“ Calling ones self a Kpop reporter is such a broad term and leads many to suspect that it’s a glamorous life. When in fact, it’s the most difficult career I’ve ever undertook in my life. So, I’ll let you guys be the judge. Here’s a little taste of what I do.
1. Research: I search 50+ sites (60% of which are NOT in English and must be translated) on a daily basis for news from the Kpop world; spending as much as 18-20 hours on the computer a day and averaging a normal bed time of 5am.
2. Managing Contacts: I keep an extensive record on all communications with my contacts in the Korean Music industry, along with publicists, managing companies, and artists themselves. I have to answer emails, pms, tweets, and all other social media messages in a timely manner to keep in good standing with these contacts.
3. General News Writing: Once I’ve found a story; I have to research its authenticity, contemplate the overall feel of an article, come up with a catchy or appropriate title, write it, then re-write it, then self-edit, then re-write, then research appropriate photographs/videos to include if applicable, source it, self-edit again, make technical and grammar adjustments, then submit it for final editing. Depending on the length of the article and subject matter, the average work time from start to final editing can average anywhere from one hour to five hours per General News article. When the subject matter is a Breaking Story, I have to do all this in less than 30 minutes.
4. Media Archiving: I have to keep an extensive archive of all mv/pv/photos that I use for work and, within that archive, keep exact track of the sources for each item. This part of the job requires multiple external hard drives, multiple computers (I have three.), external archiving site accounts (like mediafire and dropbox), and a thorough site list for the location of each file.
5. Online Personality: This is pretty much self explanatory. As a member of the media, just like the Kpop artists themselves, you are subjected to public scrutiny at all times. You must adhere to a strict guideline of what you can say, how you can say it, and what you absolutely must not say in a public forum. Otherwise your comments can be used as ammunition against, not only your personal credibility, but the credibility of the news agency that is your employer. The trick is to voice your opinion in such a way that it is easily understandable, respectful to a degree, and makes your point with out causing an incident. For a simple example, in my daily life I have been known to curse sometimes, but you will rarely ever see me curse on a public forum.
6. Interviews (pt. 1: prep): I have to prep interview questions on a daily basis. In the Kpop news world, it is a very rare occurrence to have the luxury of having 3-6 weeks notice before an interview is to take place. I research all the interviews each artist has done within the last six months as a reference of what questions have already been asked. Rather than submitting obviously trivial questions, I work diligently to create thought provoking questions based in facts I can always prove. I keep a printed copy along with a digital copy (encrypted) of every interview I’ve ever taken part of and have in my possession some 150 different sets of interview questions (that must be updated frequently) waiting in the wings for the day I will get that artist’s interview. Curious? Artists like Super Junior, Beast, 2ne1, BoA, SNSD, Big Bang, TVXQ, JYJ, Wonder Girls, Psy, Tablo, SHINee, and of course Brian Joo; are just a few of the artists that I have a prepped interviews for in my desk.
7. Interviews (pt. 2 physical interview): Sounds like the best part of the job right? Getting to meet artists face-to-face, talking with them, interviewing them, taking pictures with them, and getting their autographs for yourself in a one-on-one environment? WRONG! This is one of the two most difficult parts of this job, for several reasons. The following are just a sample of the things I have to do/deal with when I do these types of interviews.
- You have to be extremely polite, re-think every word before it comes out of your mouth, deal with nervousness on an epic scale, be up-to-date on all cultural customs, try to glean the proper way to approach/speak to the artist, and in some cases be fluent in Korean greetings (as many of the artist you interview don’t speak English well or at all).
- You have present yourself (physically) as a person of high standing, with a professional look and attitude at all times. You MUST give your precious inner fan girl a Valium and send her to her room! If she rears her ugly head, at any time, your career and credibility will be obliterated instantly.
- You have to be extremely PATIENT and understand that all schedules are tentative. You must ALWAYS have a contingency plan. For example: I had an interview with an artist that was scheduled at 7pm, but it was running thirty minutes behind due to sound check. Instead of twenty minutes for the face-to-face interview, I got eight minutes. Forcing me to re-think and self-edit my original set of interview questions to fit the time allowed. See what I mean?
8. Concert Coverage: This is the most difficult part of my job, and admittedly, the most heart breaking part for my inner fan girl. As a fan, we attend shows for three main reasons: to be entertained, to watch our favorite artist live on stage, and to listen to the music while singing along as loud as we possibly can. As a concert coverage writer, I can’t do any of these. Yes, I’m there watching the show, but I can’t enjoy it. Why? Simply because my assignment takes precedent over my inner fan.
You are constantly glued to your camera, thinking of what shots will work best, maneuvering through a crowd of screaming fans to get that perfect shot, and protecting your gear as if your life depended on it.
You have to contemplate how your coverage article will eventually flow, keep written track of every song performed that night, along with any special highlights (like a random b-boy dance break, mid show) that may occur.
You must capture up to fifteen video clips along with getting a minimum of five full song videos, and trying to do all of this usually on your own. When I began doing coverage articles, this was how I did it, totally alone. However, thanks to my very good friend and assistant Elling from New York, I have been able to split some of the work load when it comes to covering shows north of Washington, DC.
9: Media Editing: After the interviews or concert coverages are said and done, and you finally make it back home (I live in North Carolina, and cover concerts in DC, NYC, NJ, and Boston), the most intensive work begins. You have to comb through thousands of photos from an event to find the very best and then tag each one of them with your companies logo, edit/tag all the video files from the show, edit/tag the exclusive footage from the face-to-face interview, load all the videos to Youtube and all the photos to our system, then get full release approval from your upper management and/or the event coordinators.
All of this before you can even start to write your coverage article. This is the most time consuming part of my job. For my last concert coverage of the APAHM Tour with Jay Park in D.C., the coverage article took me eight days to complete with an average of 17 hours straight of work each day. For those of you who don’t want to do the math, that is a total of 136 hours of work for an article that will take your average reader maybe twenty minutes to read and watch all the videos.
This job is definitely not for everyone. The extremely low to no pay (many news writers in this field get paid less than ten cents per article), no travel/ticket reimbursement (paying totally out of pocket for concert coverage trips), extremely long hours, and minimal notoriety, are just a few of the drawbacks from choosing this career. So, I’m sure your asking yourselves; ” Nini, Why on earth are you doing this job?”
I could say that it’s all because I have the chance to meet artists in person, but that is absolutely untrue. (As our PR staff can testify, I rarely even ask for an interview, I simply request press access.) The chance to work with artists from my most favorite genre in the world is just icing on the cake for me. I do it simply for the love of the music. I believe in Kpop, it’s potential, and its fans. I work so diligently to achieve two simple goals; to impress enough people in the Kpop world so that they will give me a paying job doing exactly what I am now, and to spread the HALLYU WAVE to every corner of the globe -and make Kpop a household name!
*Before you think that I am boasting about my life, understand this one thing. My families yearly income is less than $18,000 USD. I have spent the majority of my life working in dead in factory jobs, working tons of overtime just to keep my family a float. Even with all the trips that I take, you have no earthly idea how difficult it is for me to pull off the ability to even go. My purpose of this article was simply to explain what I do for my job and give every aspiring Kpop news writer a heads up in what they are in for.*