the thick of news action
By Allan Koay
Online host and broadcast journalist Joanna Chan is on a
roll. Ever since returning from her studies in Australia
in 1998, she has immersed herself in the world of broadcast
journalism, doing everything from producing, reporting and
scriptwriting on shows like Dateline Malaysia, Malaysia’s
Aspirations and Achievements and MSC Online. All this from
someone who was discouraged at a young age from becoming
I was a kid, my grandmother would tell me, ‘Of all professions,
you should never choose to become a journalist,’” says Chan.
she would tell me, in Chinese, that I would be such a busybody
and everyone would hate me and throw stones at me!
me, that was a challenge already. It’s just so exciting
because if you’re an inquisitive person and you always want
to know about things, then being a journalist is the best
Chan, who studied radio journalism at Swinburne University,
admits to not knowing a single thing about journalism when
she started out. In fact, she was told she had a voice that
was too high-pitched for television.
first stint was on Dateline Malaysia, the talk show that
featured personalities discussing everything from politics
and social issues to economics, which she helped produce
and for which she did research.
I got back here, it was a bit of an economic chaos and the
situation wasn’t very pretty,” Chan explains.
the good news was there was an avenue that I could venture
into, something I knew best, which was journalism.
was the first time the government and the opposition could
sit together and debate issues. And that opened my eyes
to many things.
experience working with Dateline Malaysia was tremendous.
I did a lot of research and that’s how I learnt. I’ve never
stopped learning since then.”
Chan confesses that she was initially hesitant about coming
home after spending four to five years in Australia.
of the things that deterred her from returning was the economic
and political situation. But that proved to be a valuable
information that went abroad wasn’t very positive,” she
I’m glad I got back. Being in this line, I realised that
news can be biased.
Australia, it was definitely biased. I had people coming
up to me and saying ‘I’m so sorry that you’re from Malaysia!’
I were in Australia three years ago with the experience
I have now, I would probably be defending my country and
myself, because the situation was not as gloomy as people
pictured it to be.”
Dateline Malaysia, the next big thing that came along for
Chan was the series on the world of technology, MSC Online,
which Chan co-hosts with Wan Zaleha Radzi and Paula Malai
show features issues, innovations, success stories, principals
and products of the IT world, and goes globe-trotting for
interviews with personalities in the United States, Hong
Kong, India, China and elsewhere.
explains that the initial idea was to avoid doing an IT
programme like what was already airing on the other stations
– those that tell you what a PC and a mouse are.
in a way heading towards the vision of our Prime Minister,”
foresaw that the dot-com bubble will not grow to such an
extent that it will pop soon.
saw that as well and tried to relate an idea of what technology
is and what its underlying factors and implications are.”
MSC Online, Chan does research as well as the scriptwriting
and post-production work. She’s the presenter on a show
about technology, but is she a techie or even Internet-savvy?
of people ask me that, especially guys,” she says
to admit that before MSC Online, what I knew about IT was
very, very shallow. After MSC Online, I was kind of thrown
into this whirlwind of the IT world.
I had to learn, and that’s when I read a lot. I surfed a
lot more too.”
doubts about her knowledge of technology come mostly from
men, then is the world of technology still predominantly
a male domain?
so,” she replies. “I don’t see many of my female friends
actually interested in IT.
guys, they don’t see three personalities presenting an IT
like ‘Wow, do they really know what they’re talking about?’
But if they talk to us about it, they’ll see that we do
know what we’re talking about.
us, it’s also a selling point. You have three girls presenting
and people will want to watch to see if we know what we’re
Chan was discouraged by her grandmother from becoming a
journalist. But today,she`s enjoying the challenges of her
26-year-old Chan is also an anchor reporter for another
show, Malaysia’s Aspirations and Achievements. But an upcoming
new series has her going around the world looking for Future
a really grand project,” she says. “We’re in the midst of
are 13 episodes in the first season, and we will look at
13 sustainable cities in the world. One of them is Kuala
not a travelogue. It tells people how a city can be sustained
in the future, whether it can meet the needs of its citizens,
of the environment, safety, etc.
is a big, big challenge, because we’re talking about the
future, things we don’t know.”
she’s not interviewing famous people like Sun Microsystems’
chief scientist Dr John Gage, ex-president Fidel Ramos,
World Trade Organisation director-general designate Dr Supachai
Panitchpakdi or Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah
Ahmad Badawi, Chan loves to indulge in physical sports like
rock-climbing and roller-blading.
eldest of four siblings even tried kick-boxing!
to try out sports that’s unconventional,” she says.
I want to exercise, it’d better be fun! To me, it’s stress
therapy whenever I go out and shop! In a way, it’s like
and bred in Kuala Lumpur, Chan studied at Bukit Bintang
Girls’ School, which has since been demolished. She laments
not having an alma mater to go back to.
very unhappy about that!” she says, but with a laugh. “It’s
terrible. All the BBGS girls were coming up with a petition
to save the school. With BBGS, you’ll always feel an attachment
to the school. That’s where you’re from, where you learned
whole childhood memory is wiped out.
thing is, you’ll always be passing by the site where it
stood whenever you go shopping! Well, that’s a pity.”
the future, Chan doesn’t really know what it holds for her,
but she harbours the ambition of becoming a correspondent
in the thick of the action.
definitely very challenging, and it’s very, very demanding,”
Chan says of her job. “Sometimes, in the small corner of
my heart, I ask myself if I’m really cut out for this. But
it’s part of my ambition to really carry this to whatever
heights I can reach.
I can, I would love to be a war correspondent or something
like that, to be there and get the feel of what it’s like.
That’s one experience that only a journalist can get, because
you have the pass to anywhere in the world.”