For j-students, story ideas can come from big news events, or even class assignments. But for UPIU’s Freelance Reporting Contest winner, Ye Hou, also known as Carol, her winning story idea came from a sign she saw on her way to class. It’s a textbook case of a young journalist keeping her eyes open and her news judgment at the ready.
Carol hails from Bejing, China, where being a journalist can require persistence and flexibility. She wrote her story about a new stop-smoking campaign ginning up at Peking University, and students’ reactions to it. She’s one of three UPIU student reporters chosen for this round of our Freelance Reporting Contest. As a winner, her story was published at UPI.com and she earned $200 for her work.
We asked Carol tell us a bit about where she’s from, how she found her winning story idea, and what challenges she overcame to bring it together.
Name: Ye Hou (Carol)
Hometown: Bejing, China
School: Peking University
UPIU: How did you get interested in journalism?
One of my best friends is a journalist. I was so curious about her work and then I selected a course called News Writing at Peking University. In the class, I found out that journalism is quite different from what I had expected. A journalist should be very observant and sensitive to details, keep thinking all the time and dig out new aspects of the usual life. It is so amazing.
Why did you choose to attend Peking University?
I think Peking University is the dream for many Chinese students. I had this dream since I was very young. Here I can learn from many excellent professors and students. Also if I didn’t attend Peking University, I might not have had the chance to join UPIU and write my story.
Tell us about your recent UPI.com story. How did you find this story idea?
It is about the new measures in Peking University to ban smoking. This term, I found that there were some new reminders on the water boilers in some buildings. Each time I went to get hot water, I saw those reminders saying “no smoking, healthy and fashionable.” I thought it was interesting to write so I wrote email to UPIU and participated in the freelance contest.
Was it a challenge to find sources?
Yes it was. But sometimes, I was able to change my angle a little and then I found more sources. It is important to think more and pay attention to everything that is happening around us.
How did your UPIU mentor help you in the reporting and writing process?
My mentor Krista Kapralos is so nice and great. Each time I sent her a draft, she would read it very carefully and ask me questions about the content or the sources. Then I would correct them and she would ask more. Sometimes she told me a lot about the details and format, how to quote, how to select sources and how to use the sources. I really learned a lot in the process and appreciate UPIU giving me the chance to write the story and be mentored by Krista.
What was the most difficult part of the process?
The most difficult part I think is to persuade myself that there is always room for improvement. Sometimes I thought the story was OK, but then there would be other problems. There is no shortcut in writing news, and I need to be be very certain about everything I write. And this often calls for further investigation and also patience.
What’s your next project?
I am thinking of writing a story about volunteers who helps migrant workers’ kids in Beijing. Last Sunday, volunteers organized a visit for the kids to the science museum. I participated in the program and felt so great. The visit was organized by a foreign teacher and he funded all the food and buses. I really hoped to write something about this.