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Journalism in China by Violet Lea

Shanghai skyline

I had never worked for a publication before and I had little confidence in my writing. Nevertheless, keen to try my hand at journalism I set to explore life behind the bright lights of Shanghai as I interned at one of the city’s best read, English language magazines - a monthly, lifestyle and culture magazine aimed at the city’s half a million expatriates.

My Journalism placement

The first half of my two months was spent working for the editor of the supplement magazine, and the second half in the magazine’s main department. Typically I’d begin the day glossing over the competitors’ magazines, newspapers and websites. I’d familiarise myself with what was going on in the city and I’d brainstorm how I could possibly present already reported news from a fresh and alternative angle. For the most part I was assigned restaurants to sample and review, stores to peruse and report on, and shows to watch and then blog about.

I am certainly grateful that coffee runs, aimless internet searching and paper filing are clerical skills that I have not had to add to my resume following my internship - I was kept truly busy from day one. When the day did ever seem slow, however, just witnessing the logistics of professional editors on a day to day basis proved to be experience enough to learn to from.

The magazines front cover

In a fast paced environment I quickly understood that the English language media market is surprisingly saturated in Shanghai, a city with a great number of publications going to print weekly and monthly, all free of charge. Competition is tough; creating both original and relevant content is hence a challenging yet fun venture - it is a task that entices you to understand the city’s lifestyles, culture and more interestingly, expat subcultures.

Working hard at my placement

I took every opportunity to pitch any ideas I had in order to get as many bylines published as I could. This persistence led to me being sent off to a rural temple in Lin’an for a 3 day Buddhist meditation retreat, in order to write the lead story for the supplement magazine. Furthermore, for this ‘retreat’ themed issue I also embarked on a ‘30 day Hot Yoga Challenge’ at a top rate yoga centre in Pudong, for free, to journal my experience for readers.

Following attending beauty workshops, sampling organic brunches, investigating the city’s views on spirituality and finding a ‘Bachelor of the Month’, I built up a wide array of articles and features that eventually led to 90 per cent of that month’s supplement being my work.

One of my articles

Regardless of having acquired a lead story and being able to see my writing polished and edited in print, being an intern meant there was also a great deal of admin work to be done; from data entry into the website to downloading photos and arranging other people’s interviews. However, all this was made all the more rewarding after having received emails from people and companies I had written about thanking me for the printed articles and telling me how much they had enjoyed reading them.

My time off in China

Working aside, some other highlights of my time in China included a weekend trip to Beijing on the opening weekend of the new bullet train, buying my first Mulberry handbag (a rite of passage for every woman - ok, it’s a fake), and trying to decipher Chinese menus only to give up, point at something random and await the surprise to be put on my plate.

Having come home from Shanghai and still in a state of post-travel blues, I certainly miss the city very much and am considering returning to my placement next summer. I got a lot out of my time with the magazine - not only journalistic techniques and a feel for the industry, but I was given the opportunity to meet a lot of interesting people and learn from different perspectives. This it is not just a placement and you will no doubt get back all that you put into it.

Violet Lea

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