Scaling New Heights

Gillian Wong (CS’05) is appointed Greater China News Director of The Associated Press.

Wong covered many notable stories in both politics and technology while working in China for the past eight years.

Wong covered many notable stories in both politics and technology while working in China for the past eight years. PHOTO: CECILIA LI

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One evening during her junior college years, Gillian Wong was watching a TV news segment on an international news network when an epiphany hit her.

“I saw a reporter standing on top of the television van on the streets somewhere in Tanzania, reporting about the bombings that took place at the local US embassy. I turned to my dad and said ‘I think this is what I want to do for a living,’” she recalled.

Over the past decade, Wong has been chasing such stories around the region for top international news agencies. In February, the 33-year-old seasoned journalist was appointed Associated Press News Director for Greater China. In her new role, Wong oversees a team of over twenty reporters for their coverage in Mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and even Mongolia.

PHOTO: CECILIA LI

“I hope to bring something new to the mix. Also, there are a lot of extremely experienced reporters who are experts on China. The team is fun and hardworking – which I am lucky to be familiar with,” said Wong, who is not new to AP.

Wong first started her journalism career at AP’s Singapore Bureau in 2005. Three years later, Wong took the leap and transferred to the Beijing Bureau, ahead of the Summer Olympics in 2008.

Prior to her latest appointment, Wong worked at The Wall Street Journal in China, covering news on technology giants like Alibaba and Baidu for 14 months.

In her earlier years with AP, she covered a range of news topics from politics to disasters such as former Chinese politician Bo Xilai’s scandal and the South Korea’s Sewol disaster in 2014.  

“What matters more with news organisations is their confidence in your ability over time. They look for people with initiative, confidence, curiosity and a good work ethic.”

Gillian Wong

One of her notable stories was an investigative piece on how the China Communist Party’s crackdown on corruption resulted in abuse and torture among officials in 2014.

“I was able to convince a few county level officials who had been tortured in the system to talk to me. They had been secretly detained at undisclosed locations and were interrogated under harsh conditions according to experts,” she recalled.

Wong shared that her father was initially not keen on her working as a journalist, but her passion for news writing never wavered. “I loved the fact that I could run around asking people questions, write their responses in an interesting way and being able to do that everyday,” she said.

In her second year at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Wong went to the University of Missouri (also known as Mizzou) – the oldest journalism school in the United States – for her semester exchange to further hone her news writing techniques.

Her experience of working for a campus newspaper in Mizzou later inspired her to take up an internship position with AP Singapore. After the internship, she continued with weekend shifts during her final year and was offered a full-time position at AP before graduation.

Her early days as a journalist in Singapore taught her the importance of being a stickler for details.

Recalling an experience where she visited a fishball factory as an intern, Wong was terrified when her copy editor asked for the exact diameter of a fishball. “She did not want my guessing or estimation. I really learnt of the old saying, ‘always get the name of the dog,’” she recalled.

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Wong’s advice to aspiring young journalists is to focus on developing the right skills and attitude over paper qualifications.

“What matters more with news organisations is their confidence in your ability over time. They look for people with initiative, confidence, curiosity and a good work ethic.”

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