Sports Media Trainee Programme 2014/15 WWCC Blog

L-R: Michael Houston; Sung-Lok Hin; Edward Hebert Photo: WCF/Richard Gray

Michael Houston from Glasgow in Scotland, a Multimedia Journalism student from Glasgow Caledonian University, photographer Rocky (Lok-Hin) Sung – studying at the Hong Kong Institute of Education in Hong Kong, China and Edward Hebert, a Broadcast Television and Videography student at Humber College in Canada, have joined the WCF media team at the ZEN-NOH World Women’s Curling Championship 2015 in Sapporo, Japan.

They are the latest competition winners in the WCF Sports Media Trainee Programme, which is sponsored by the Foundation for Global Sports Development.

Among their other duties, Michael, Rocky and Edward will be contributing to this daily blog recounting their experiences and feelings from their first World Curling Championship.

Michael Houston (Journalist)

Michael at work Photo: WCF/Richard Gray

If you don’t succeed, try again!
I’ve always lived by the motto “If you don’t succeed, try again” – something that has hurt my bank balance after many embarrassing driving tests.

Despite the hole in my wallet, I stand by this motto because if I didn’t, I would have never gotten the opportunity to go to Japan.

In November, I applied for the World Curling Federation’s Sports Media Trainee Programme which would take me to Switzerland for the European Curling Championships if I won the competition.

I made the shortlist, but I didn’t win. The reality of not succeeding was a big disappointment, but I decided to apply again in January for a chance to join the WCF in either Tallinn, Estonia or Sapporo, Japan.

When I got the call, I was excited. I was just thinking about going to Tallinn because Japan didn’t seem realistic, so it was a shock to hear that I would be going to Asia.

The flights were long and the time difference completely drained me – even as I write this, I feel like going for a sleep – but it has been worth it.

Before I had even set foot in Japan, I got to experience travelling alone to Amsterdam before meeting up with Danny Parker (WCF Media Relations Officer) and Chris Hamilton (WCF New Media Officer), two Scots who I would be working with. From there, we flew to Seoul, which is a beautiful city from above. We then arrived in Sapporo.

For the past couple of days, I have been adapting to the time difference and the culture. Japan is a very traditional country where there is a sense of community and politeness in everyday life. It’s a refreshing change.

The only thing that has really challenged me is the language. Although speaking Japanese is fairly easy to do, it’s near impossible to understand what people are saying or what the signs read. Luckily, Japan is English-friendly.

I’m gearing up for the start of my work now. It’s a cold place to work, but it’s enjoyable so far. The curlers seem easy-going off the rink, which makes your job easier and the people I work with are so helpful.

I’m a little nervous, but at the same time I can’t wait to start.

We got the opportunity to try curling whilst in Sapporo Photo: WCF/Richard Gray

Learning from the best

So after enjoying some socialising when I first arrived, I felt the full force of what it’s like to work as part of the media team at a curling event.

It’s a really interesting job, but the long hours are mentally difficult! To get out of your bed at 7am and not see anything but a curling stadium until at least 11pm can be hard – but despite the long hours, it’s still been enjoyable and rewarding.

Over the past four days I’ve experienced a lot whilst working here. I’ve seen, to the best of my knowledge, all of the areas in which the WCF operate.

I was given an insight to how the commentary works and the little tricks that you can use to communicate whilst commentating.

This also helped me to improve my curling jargon and my general knowledge of the sport. My identification of good and bad shots is also getting better.

This makes interviews easier if you know when or where the team went wrong.

Talking about interviews, I got to conduct my first on day one and to my delight it was with the sweetheart of curling, Russian skip Anna Sidorova.

WCF journalist Mike Haggerty, who would be mentoring me throughout my stay, introduced us. Despite a bad start, where I stuttered and talked about the wrong ends, I managed to save it at the end, much to my relief.

I’ve spoken to a few skips so far and they have been really nice and I have improved since that less than perfect start.

I’ve also interviewed people out with the mixed zone.

Today, I talked to USA’s High Performance Director, Derek Brown, and a Canadian couple who follow the women’s curling everywhere.

With these individuals I was able to take a much more relaxed approach which in turn made me more confident.

The only thing that I have not been happy with in terms of my interviewing skills is my articulation. This is probably due to where I live where we tend to drop endings in words or slur our words a bit, but I am working on it.

I’ve also started to write features which is very time consuming and at times a bit stressful, but I’m looking forward to seeing something that I wrote being published on the website.

I’ve compiled information from the interviews that I mentioned above, and from video interviews with Guillame (our cameraman) and Alison who asks the questions.

Alison has a lot of experience in journalism and I was able to take some tips from her interviewing skills. She is very precise and also pushes for answers which you shouldn’t be afraid to do.

Everyday I’m meeting new people which is really cool. I’ve met my two fellow trainees and they’re both really nice, hardworking guys. I work with the photographer Rocky more often because our work overlaps a lot, but I see Ed out on the ice every so often working with the TV team.

My last two days have been pretty intense, but at least I can go away from these days knowing that I’ve at least done something for the hours I’ve been working.

I hope the second half of this tournament will be as interesting as the first!

Ed Hebert (TV Production)

Ed getting to grips with TV equipment Photo: WCF/Richard Gray

I’ve come a long way!

Going to Humber College in Toronto, I have had a good advantage by having the teachers in my programme know so much about the TV industry.

Many of them still work in TV and have a lot of connections that they use to help some of their students find places to work; after all this industry is a lot about “who you know”.

One of my teachers who works for World Curling TV emailed the students in my class a link to the information about the WCF’s Sports Media Trainee Programme.

I read the web page and figured why not give it a shot. After sending in my resume and a letter or two, I tried to forget about the application to prevent being let down in case I never heard back. I knew my teacher would not have any influence on the decision as the competition is judged anonymously and with that in mind I had no idea as to whether or not I would have a chance of winning.

Well to keep a long story (and plane ride) short, I’m now sitting sheet-side at the World Women’s Curling Championship in Sapporo Japan learning way more about producing live TV than I ever imagined.

It’s a few days in and so far I’ve done some work in multiple areas, from inside the truck at the switcher, in the arena with cameras and alongside the athletes mic-ing them up.

I am not only learning things while working on the broadcast, but I am still learning about Japanese culture and what it’s like to live over here.

The crew takes the subway from our hotel to the arena every day, and with the occasional stop along the way at a corner store, it’s quite the experience in itself.

I’m sure there’s lots more to learn so I’m heading back to the control room for now!

It looks easier than you think! Photo: WCF/Richard Gray

International broadcasting

I have had a couple of draws off over the past few days and it’s been really great to get to see a little bit of Sapporo.

Our hotel is very close to the heart of the city and I was able to walk downtown and explore the shopping centres and got a little taste of the culture here.

It’s clear to see the Japanese people are very welcoming and polite; I have even noticed it here at the curling venue.

The domestic broadcaster at this event in Japan is NHK and they have their own mobile truck and crew on-site, so it’s really cool to see how World Curling TV (WCTV) and NHK are working together so well.

I have learned a lot about how international events like this work, such as how WCTV (being the host broadcaster) is supplying the world feed. NHK is taking a feed from our WCTV truck and simply adding a couple of their own cameras to be able to focus more on the Japanese team.

I got a chance to operate a camera the other day during a game and that was fun. I’m glad my school back in Toronto teaches us using modern and standard equipment because I was already familiar with the camera so that made things easier.

The days left here are winding down quickly with today being the last day of the round robin stage. I’m looking forward to making the most of my last few days here with WCTV.

Rocky Hin (Photographer)

Rocky at work Photo: WCF/Richard Gray

It doesn’t snow in Hong Kong!

This is my first time in Japan and the first time that I have been abroad myself. I was a little bit nervous flying solo because I was worried about my camera equipment getting lost or stolen.

When I was emailed about winning the competition I thought “This is a fake message, I don’t believe it.“

I sent an email to confirm, but still didn’t believe it. Then I started to get more emails about etiquette in Japan and travel arrangements and that’s when I started to believe.

I started to prepare my things half a year before the competition as I applied for the European Curling Championships in Switzerland and made the shortlist, but I didn’t win.

When I arrived in Japan I thought that it was a special place because I had to travel for a long time to get here. I had to transfer to Incheon Airport in Seoul, Korea and stayed there for around five hours before my flight to Sapporo.

The weather in Seoul was sunny but when I arrived in Sapporo it was snowy despite being quite close to each other geographically.

Why was this so special to me? Well, in Hong Kong it never snows and this is only the second time that I’ve seen snow in person.

On the first day I just hung around Sapporo city and I went into the Big Camera Shop. For the rest of the day, I visited the JR Tower shopping centre and the Sapporo TV Tower.

Curling is also a very new sport in Hong Kong. Before I came here, I had never seen curling sheets. When I arrived in the venue, I thought it was amazing.

When working I knew I had to use different equipment. There’s quite a difference taking photos for sports and taking landscape or portrait or snapshots, or wedding photos for that matter!

You have to take different equipment and different lenses to photograph different things.

I think this is a great challenge for me as a photographer because I haven’t seen live curling before. The only curling that I’ve watched is from the World Curling TV’s YouTube channel.

If I have the chance in Sapporo, I’ll try curling.

My friends and relatives knew I had a chance of being the trainee photographer and they have a lot of hope and expectation for me so there’s some pressure in doing well to make them happy.

The only other thing I’m worried about are the cultural and language barriers.

Despite some of my concerns, I take great pleasure in being the first WCF trainee photographer from Asia. I’m sure that this will be an unforgettable experience.

This first step to the Hong Kong national team Photo: WCF/Richard Gray
Rocky at work Photo: WCF/Richard Gray

Reflections

Wow, what a week it’s been! I’ve gained so much experience that I will no doubt use in my photography career going forward.

Throughout the week I’ve had a number of tasks, but my main focus has been on taking photos.

On the first day (Friday) I got to take the headshots of the teams. The athletes were very co-operative and a few of them even had a bit of a laugh and giggle with me, which helped me relax.

This week has been quite challenging for me personally though, because I’ve never been an official photographer for an event this big.

There are many things that we have to think about. For example, uploading photos and knowing where we can sit to shoot the games down on the field of play.

Trying to get the right shot is also very difficult as there’s a number of factors that come in to play. Throughout the round robin there were four games on at the same time with athletes playing in different directions.

You also have to try and find the athletes who express themselves a lot as they are the ones who make the best photos.

It’s not only the athletes themselves though, you also have to pick the right moment in the game as usually the best expressions come when a team is close to winning or losing a game.

I’ve taken photos nine days at the same venue so I’ve had to find some different angles in order to increase the attractiveness of my photos.

Of course, there’s limited factors to my photo shooting. Because the venue is quite large I think it’s quite flat to take photos. I have to find angles to give the photos more life.

And as for the athletes, while I have not been able to talk to them on ice, I have asked a few of their athletes for their autographs – all of team China and all the players on the official event poster. They’ve all been really nice and forthcoming.

As I’m an Asian student from Hong Kong, I’ve found this has been quite an advantage as I’ve been able to help the WCF staff with some translations.

On the first day of the round robin, I helped Michael with his interview by translating for the Chinese skip Sijia Liu. I also helped Joanna Kelly (WCF Media Manager) speak with Chinese TV broadcaster CCTV.

Translating is quite new to me and I found it particularly difficult as my first language is Cantonese.

Luckily in primary school we learned Mandarin and it’s quite common for Hong Kong people to know some Mandarin as well as English.

All of the WCF staff are really funny and caring, but most importantly they are extremely professional – they’re so co-operative with each other.

No matter if they come from different countries or cities, they work together very well and very peacefully.

Special thanks goes to Richard Gray (my mentor and WCF Photography Manager) and Danny Parker (WCF Media Relations Officer) who I see a lot and who have taught me lots of things.

Finally, I must say thank you to WCF who made me the first Asian student to take part in this trainee programme. I never thought that I would be chosen for this once in a lifetime opportunity and I have been rewarded with a thoroughly exciting, interesting and educational experience during my time in Sapporo.

One of my favourite photos so far Photo: WCF/Rocky Sung
I’m always trying new ideas Photo: WCF/Rocky Sung