Sun, Mar 20, 2005 - Page 18 News List

In search of news

As vice president of EETV's cable television news department Alice Kao is in a position to influence coverage of events

By Gavin Phipps  /  STAFF REPORTER

Alice Kao, a veteran foreign correspondent, calls for a more global outlook.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ETA

Channel surf through the nation's half dozen cable television news networks on any given day at any given time and the chances of catching a news item concerning events outside of Taiwan's borders is very slim.

In an average week the only international items that local cable networks often consider worthy of airtime are those that feature brutally bloody footage of war, terrorism, natural disasters or that old favorite the construction worker who inadvertently got shot in the head with a nail gun. And even then very few, if any, of these items offer any in-depth analysis or insight into the reasons behind the events they portray.

As vice president of ETTV's (東森電視) cable television news department, Alice Kao (高惠宇) is one of the few vocal critics of this format and has long advocated that Taiwan's cable news networks step up to the plate and give viewers the chance not only to see what is happening thousands of miles away, but also to learn why and how these events have unfolded.

"Taiwan is so small, has such little international visibility and no influence, yet is so insular that we often forget that there are things of importance happening in the [outside] world," she said. "But if it does not involve prying into somebody's private life, nobody seems to be that interested."

Kao's rise to prominence as one of Taiwan's most trusted and well-known foreign correspondents began by accident in the wake of the death of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in April of 1975. As a young and unknown rookie newsapaper reporter, Kao may have seemed an odd choice to cover the visit to Taiwan by then-US Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, who flew in to attend Chiang's funeral.

Instead of shying away and simply relying on the press releases issued by the Government Information Office (新聞局), Kao embraced the challenge and set about following the US Vice President's every move. In town for only 24 hours and with no plans to meet with the local press corps, Rockefeller's itinerary was a closely guarded secret, yet Kao thought outside of the box and managed to get an interview, albeit a very brief one.

"He was staying at the Grand Hotel and you couldn't get near him because of the bodyguards. I figured that because of his family's interest in art he would visit the National Palace Museum," Kao said. "So after the funeral I went there and waited."

Kao's shrewd thinking paid dividends and the US Vice President did indeed visit the museum. Moments before Rockefeller stepped into his limousine to return to the airport Kao made her move and managed to ask him a couple questions. The answers to Kao's inquiries may not have been earth-shaking, but they were enough for her newspaper to boast an exclusive interview with the visiting dignitary.

"I'll admit it was a very brief encounter and that all he said were few protocol words before he got into the car," said Kao. "But the newspaper took it as a scoop. I wrote the story and I got my first byline."

Following Kao's brief yet all-important meeting with Rockefeller, she found herself promoted to the position of foreign correspondent-at-large. Kao began to hang out at US-forces officers' clubs and hotel lobbies looking for stories, was a regular face at embassy receptions and became one of the first local reporters to take an interest in and write about Taiwan's foreign community.

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