GBJ students come from every continent (Antarctica excepted) – More than 60 countries in the program’s first decade. For a new Q&A series, we’ll ask different ones about what drew them to the media industry, journalism in their home countries, and how they’ll use skills they learn at Tsinghua to shape the future of news.
Narantungalag Enkhtur, 26, is a first-year student in the GBJ program from Mongolia. She grew up near where the Gobi Desert meets the Altai Mountains and worked several jobs in the Mongolian journalism industry – for radio, print, television, and online outlets, including Bloomberg TV Mongolia – before moving to Beijing last year. She studied Chinese at Beijing Normal University prior to enrolling at Tsinghua University.
Q: How did you first get interested in journalism?
A: I was 14 – a countryside girl – and I went to the city, Ulaanbaatar. At the time my sister was an undergraduate student and FM radio was really hot, especially among young people. I truly admired the voices of the hosts of the radio station, and I became a big fan. I went back to my hometown, and later that year, the first FM radio station launched there. Then I was a superfan. I would go to my school and turn on the radio and listen and try to connect to FM radio station programs. At that time cell phones weren’t so common. We got on the phones and called the radio station and connected. I found myself in a situation where they gave me the chance to host. The host radio station asked me, “Are you a student?” “I’m a high school student.” “If you’re interested you can join our studio to host a program.” I imagined new programs and then I imagined I’m the host of that program. Then they hired me. At that time – that was the starting point. I was in eighth grade.
Q: Before that radio station started in your hometown, where would you get your news from?
A: I wasn’t familiar with the news. I was a high school girl – never paid attention to the news, never paid attention to the journalism thing. Then I went to the FM radio station and hosted until the final year of high school. One day, one of the journalists asked me, “So you’re going to be an undergraduate soon. What will you major in?” At that time he suggested, “How about journalism?” That was one of the first times I heard the word “journalist.” Then I searched. “What is a journalist? Who is a journalist?” I went back to my home and watched television. I saw a broadcast journalist on TV and then I thought, She must be a journalist. A journalist must be like this person. Then I dreamed about journalism.
For a freshman student – a small village student – who comes to Ulaanbaatar, it’s hard to adapt. At that time I was so lucky to find another opportunity to work in the urban radio station as a freshman. Then I moved to the weekly newspaper and focused on writing, and finally, I went to a local TV station. I worked there maybe three years. After that, I went to Australia – a short-term course. Then I came back to Mongolia and got a job at Bloomberg. That’s my career.
Q: Whenever you first got your show in your hometown, what sorts of things were you saying on air? What were you talking about?
A: It was a discussion among local government officers who sat together to discuss tax policy. I just had the role of introducing them: “This person comes from there, this person comes from there.” That time – it was so interesting. Our producers wrote some words on a paper and showed me and I just read it. It was a live show. The only thing I remember is that time was flying so fast. At that time the studio light – it was old-fashioned, that very, very bright, yellow light. I just remember that light. That’s it.
Q: What was your experience like at Bloomberg TV Mongolia?
A: Before I joined the Bloomberg, I worked at TM – Television Mongolia. That was quite a good experience. How to write journalism, how to write news. That was fundamental to preparing me for journalism. But Bloomberg gave me some points to sharpen my skills – to be a beat reporter covering the mining industry. While there, I helped create the first live television feed linking Canada and Mongolia at a mining conference near the Toronto Stock Exchange.
After that Bloomberg gave me a chance to become their parliamentary reporter. I went to the parliamentary house and covered legislative affairs and did some live shows.
Q: How are journalists viewed in Mongolia? When you introduce yourself – what is that like there, to be on the street and say, “I’m a reporter?”
A: I think you know – in the beginning of the journalism industry in Mongolia, in the ‘90s, to be a journalist was an honour. The top level of society would invite them over. Now the reputation of the journalist is getting lower and lower: “They’re always lying. They’re always chasing for the bad things.” Their reputation is going down. But some people understood the importance of journalism rules. With social media – when that was a growing trend, I was on a visit to the European Journalism Center. Now people understand: social media reporting is often totally different from the fundamentals of journalism. A journalist must be professional, and they must dig deeper. People’s view of journalists – I think every country is similar. The way to work in journalism is really similar. Even in China, Russia, and America. The difference is the method – the technology they use.
Q: When you go back to Mongolia you said you’re interested in creating a media start-up. What do you want to do? What you think you could add to journalism in Mongolia?
A: The one really good advantage I think is that in Mongolia, they get used to new things very quickly. Now in Mongolian media, they’re trying to implement new media things: data visualization, infographics. They’re using 360-degree videos. But it’s like the early steps. I think the journalists I know are really old-fashioned. We just use cameras, and the reporter uses the notebooks – they’re following the times. Now thanks to mobile technology, I want to change the old big cameras to the mobile phone. This kind of thing [points at handheld audio recorder] – change it to mobile phones. And also: shorten the procedures to prepare news-related things. I just want to save time for journalists. These days, journalists are competing to save time, to release the report one minute ahead. That’s fine: helping to reduce the time, to make it easier.
Now I’m just thinking. It’s just an idea. But another would be software that offers media companies the ability to reduce the number of jobs – more automation. The other application – it’s quite popular in Africa – “Pocket Reporter.”It’s an application for journalists. It’s an editor-in-chief inside a mobile application. It gives you some suggestions, gives you some angles – through the application. I think that application might be helpful for Mongolian journalists: shorten their news writing process and help them do deeper analyses of news.
Q: Are young people in Mongolia enthusiastic about journalism? Where do people get their news now? Is it still on the radio?
A: More and more people are enthusiastic about the news. Basically, they receive news through Facebook. Facebook is quite popular in Mongolia. Young people use Facebook for news and websites are common. But I remember that more and less people are watching the television. They’re just moving to a website. Not only in Mongolia, of course – it’s similar all over the world.
Q: Where are areas where journalism in Mongolia could really improve its coverage? On certain topics or issues?
A: The Mongolian population – 60% of the population is under their 40s. I think 40% of the Mongolian population is under their 20s. We are still such a young population. We need to choose topics that are focused on the young generation.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.