Canadian James Aitken has been a news presenter at CCTV’s international channel, CCTV9, for the last four and a half years. Although he admits he was shy as a kid, Aitken grew up to become an award-winning broadcast journalist in his native Canada before bringing his smooth, earnest delivery across the Pacific. For almost 20 years now Aitken has presented and hosted for television and radio, as well as live stage events, always at home in front of the microphone. He answered questions from Grade 5 students at the Canadian International School of Beijing and reveals some of the perks, pitfalls and all of the hard work behind the authoritative face of the news.Pierre, 11, France
What type of presenter are you?
I’m primarily a news presenter. So I present news about people, events and the government in China and around the world. I also report business news and sometimes entertainment.
Ridzman, 12, Malaysia
What did you want to grow up to be when you were a kid?
For a very long time, I wasn’t sure what kind of career I’d like to pursue. Like a lot of kids growing up in Canada, I played street hockey and watched a lot of TV and listened to the radio a lot. When I got older, I started to become interested in TV and radio as a possible job. After university, I decided to take a two-year course in broadcasting in Manitoba, and while I was attending that course, I got my first job at a radio station.
James, 11, Korea
What has been your proudest
As a reporter, “breaking a story” – that is, getting a good, important story before anyone else – is very important. It can take a lot of work – a lot of research, a lot of phone calls, a lot of patience. As a reporter in Canada, I sometimes found myself first on the scene of some breaking news. I also did some investigative stories, which earned me some recognition. I received a couple of broadcasting journalism awards for some of my work.
Ben, 11, Korea
What kind of problems or difficulties do you encounter in your work and how do you solve them?
In Canada, like most Western countries, one of the biggest challenges I faced was learning to be persistent, even when people are angry or don’t want to talk to you. Sometimes when you are trying to find out what happened people will not want to tell you and they can get angry with you – maybe they made a mistake or did something wrong and don’t what to admit it or they don’t want to give you certain information – but it’s important as a reporter to be able to get the information you need in the face of anger and resistance. It is also a constant challenge to try to be as objective as possible, and try to explain all sides of a story.
Anton, 11, Russia
How did you start in broadcasting?
As I said, after university I decided to take a special course called Broadcast Arts. In the course we had many classes in which we learned how to practice news reading and using our voices properly. We spent a lot of time being radio presenters, reporters and improving our broadcasting skills for TV and radio.
Bethany, 10, Canada
What are the things you like most about your job?
I enjoy being informed. Having the latest information about world events, and well-known people. And like I said earlier, it can be fun and exciting to be able to attend important events and meet famous people.
Sarah, 11, Korea
Can children become television
presenters? If so, how?
Yes, in Canada we do have a few shows for kids that have children as presenters. Some of them are really good. In fact there are networks devoted to children’s programming. I think that one of the best ways to get to know this job is to just go out and do it. The job is sort of similar to acting or singing – all the aspects of appearance and delivery must be carefully practiced and refined – you’re up there in front of many, many people. If a presenter appears to make their job look easy, they are likely very talented, because it actually takes a lot of skill.
Walid, 11, Brunei
Have you ever had to present the news in a dangerous situation?
From time to time in Canada I had to report from murder scenes or deadly traffic accidents, which is always very sad. There have been some times as well when I have been reporting on a police standoff or a high profile court case. It can be exciting though.
Stella, 11, Korea
What are the hours like?
The hours are quite flexible. It takes a lot of time and work and preparation before sitting down to read the news – writing the news, makeup, and so on. Most of the time a TV presenter is at work, they are actually preparing behind the scenes for the short time that you will see them on TV. It takes a lot of time, preparation and help from other coworkers just to have one person on TV for a program.
Anton, 11, Russia
Have you ever presented in extreme weather?
Back in Canada I did work as a weather presenter for a while. Sometimes, when the weather was very nice or very bad, they would send me to report on it from outside. For example, if there were a big snowstorm, the boss might decide to send me out into the freezing snow to report on the weather. In Canada, where snowstorms can frequently disrupt transportation and sometimes cause businesses to close, the weather is often big news because it can really affect people’s lives.
Vanessa, 10, Namibia
How did you decide to become a presenter, and why?
As a child I was very shy and was usually afraid to ask questions, especially in a classroom. But as I grew up and after I started to pursue this career – where asking good questions is one of the most important requirements – I gained more confidence with practice. Gradually, I came to enjoy it and developed a talent for it. I’ve come a long way from a kid who was too shy to talk to girls in my school, to someone who can speak on stage at a live event in front of thousands of people.
Ben, 11, Korea
What could you do to get better at your job?
It’s a bad thing in this type of job to think that you know it all, because if you do, someday you’ll make a mistake and get caught. Working in news as a reporter, it’s important to be a curious person, and always stay curious, to continue asking good questions. I guess the best advice is to never stop being curious about people and the world around you.
Stone, 10, USA
Does the job take up a lot of time?
Sometimes, if a big story is breaking – for
example, if there’s a big storm or an earthquake somewhere – we won’t be able to leave for home at the normal time according to regular office hours. We’ll need to continue working until the story’s done. That’s the thing about news – it doesn’t stop developing when your shift ends and it doesn’t follow strict
Ruby, 11, Hong Kong
What are your responsibilities?
My responsibilities go far beyond just reading the news, which is the most visible aspect of the job to viewers. In fact, there are a lot of people who you don’t see on TV behind the scenes making the program happen – producers, camera people, technicians, writers and so on. Aside from reading the news, my responsibilities include helping other staff with their writing and coaching junior staff on their voices and presentations. I’ve heard that for every person you see on TV there are 25 people behind the scenes.