Every morning from Monday to Friday between eight and ten o’clock, if you tune in to Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) channel one, you will hear Jonathan Yip interviewing personages and government officials, as well as taking calls from listeners. The phone-in radio programme, Talkabout, is popular because it provides an open platform for the discussion of important current issues, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the appointment of the next chief justice.
Jonathan is a journalism graduate of CUHK. He said in reflection that, when in secondary school, he had always wanted to enroll in CUHK, fascinated by its picturesque campus and the charms of college life. His favourite subject was journalistic photography, and he still remembers with relish the experience of developing photographic films in a darkroom. He was a member of the CU Chorus, and Mozart’s Requiem was his most treasured musical gem.
Jonathan served as a reporter with Cable News soon after his graduation in 2000, and it was his duty to cover news in unfamiliar places in mainland China and even overseas, such as Pakistan, which enriched his life with many new experiences. In the wake of 9/11, Pakistan became the hotspot of international politics attracting both experienced and aspiring journalists. There he met reporters from international news agencies including Reuters, Agence France Presse, and Associated Press─not an experience easily had. As a TV news reporter, he always had to race against time, sometimes even breaking the rules. For instance, he once crossed the cordon to interview Hong Kong tourists who, suspected of having contracted SARS, were stranded in Taiwan in 2003.
In the same year, Jonathan got the chance to join RTHK, where he hosted a radio programme targeting young netizens.
'I have always been a radio fan, and the chance to join RTHK was a welcome change for me,' Jonathan said. He makes a good radio host. In the Zoom interview I had with him, conducted in the thick of the COVID-19 outbreak, our faces were mostly covered with surgical masks, but his baritone voice still rang clear and strong.
At 29, the young radio host won the prestigious Chevening Scholarship to study for a master's degree in international relations in the UK.
'After working with RTHK for a few years, I thought it was high time to take a break. I had always wanted to live abroad to see life in a new light. RTHK offers its staff study leaves and therefore I took advantage of this arrangement to study in Goldsmiths, University of London.'
International studies has certainly made a strong impact on Jonathan. He started hosting radio programmes on current issues soon after he returned from the UK, and he never fails to provide international perspectives in the discussion of current issues.
'I remember at one point we were discussing the landfill problem in Hong Kong. Hong Kong was running out of landfill space and building more incinerators had always been a controversial issue. So I tried to shed light on Hong Kong’s problem by drawing on other countries' experiences. We certainly need to see things from a broader perspective.’
Jonathan feels that the young people of Hong Kong have a keen interest in international relations, and due credit should be given to a new generation of scholars such as Prof. Simon Shen.
As a student of international studies, Jonathan was particularly interested in theories, and local politics has always been his strong suit.
For that reason, he became the youngest host of radio programmes on current issues. At the age of 26, Jonathan hosted Accountability and at 34, Talkabout. His predecessors were all seasoned pundits who had attracted a large following. He had a hard act to follow, and it is not difficult to imagine the pressure he was under then.
'It was stressful at the beginning, but I put my shoulder to the wheel. I also tried to incorporate my style into my programme. I won’t sensationalize issues to please my listeners. My observation is that some listeners have strong opinions about certain public figures, opinions which are not based on their words and deeds. I focus on facts instead.’
Jonathan works with a team when doing research, inviting interviewees, and making preparations for his show.
‘I always remind myself that I should always stay calm and cautious. I must also refrain from showing my personal feelings towards those I interview.
'My role is to ask questions for my listeners. The questions you ask tell the way you think. As a radio host, I must bear in mind that impartiality is a must.’
Jonathan also stressed the importance of rising to the occasion when he has to probe an interviewee who prevaricates.
When asked if he is wary of offending his interviewees, Jonathan said resolutely that probing interviewees is his job and he would not flinch from asking pointed questions that may embarrass his interviewees. His only intent is to get to the crux of the matters under discussion.
Aside from hosting Talkabout, Jonathan is also Head of the Community Involvement Broadcasting Services (CIBS), a scheme that provides the marginalized an opportunity to produce and air their own radio shows. Feedback has been positive so far.
A music lover, Jonathan used to be the guitarist in his band, but he jokingly said that now he could only play children’s rhymes to his two young kids.
Jonathan impresses people with his composure and poise, as well as his commitment to every role he plays. His dedication has been well rewarded and will certainly continue to pave the way for further success.
Reported by Eliza Chan, ISO
This article was originally published on CUHK Homepage in May 2020.