[By: Kgomotso Moncho]
Bruce Hong is the content producer for the 567 Cape Talk Breakfast Show with Kieno Kammies. He is a finalist in the Content Producer for Commercial Radio category in the MTN Radio Awards, along with other producers from 5FM, OFM and 94.7 Highveld Stereo.
This is the first time he’s entered the competition as a producer and the first time he’s made it to the finals. But this is not the first time for the show. It has been entered before when it was presented by Aden Thomas.
Hong studied at Wits University and joined their campus radio, Voice of Wits in 1992. After graduating in 1994, he went to his first job interview which was not successful. He rang up Radio 702 who took him. After 5 years at 702 he took a break and went to London on a holiday visa where he did some accounting work. He came back to South Africa and settled in Cape Town in 2001 and joined 702’s sister station, 567 Cape Talk. He talks to Radiobiz about the thrill of chasing a story and where his love of radio comes from.
What makes the breakfast show you produce on 567 Cape Talk stand out?
We try to make a difference by either speaking to the most senior people in charge and who are able to effect change, but we also make ourselves available to help out the ordinary person who gets stuck because of red tape and so forth. We believe that if we show people how things can be done, they will take the initiative and be more bold themselves.
What appeals to you about talk radio?
On so many different levels, we can reach people emotionally, and get them to share their thoughts and their stories.
What do you hope to contribute with what you do?
By getting people to talk to each other and share their stories on our show, people will eventually realise how similar we all are underneath our different exterior shells, and we can all get along better that way. On the other hand, we can also share some of the challenges that others face that we might not be aware of ourselves, and this too can lead to better relationships
When I google you, there’s a trending of your Oscar Pistorius bedroom bathroom 3D walkthrough video. Please talk to me about that, and working on that particular story.
I wasn’t happy with the little facts we had coming out about the shooting and there was so much speculation about what might have happened in the early hours of February 14, and every person was already forming a conclusion in their head. I asked my colleagues in Gauteng to apply to get the design plans of the house (from relevant town planning office) so that we could provide a graphic so that people knew what we were dealing with. I then suggested to them that there is software available that allows one to draw up a 3D mock-up of his house.
They e-mailed me the image presented in court. It wasn’t the whole house, just the main bedroom and bathroom, but it was a start. I got home late from a family dinner and went straight into the project. I probably had the project 95% complete in a few hours and took it to the office the next morning.
In between my duties as producer, I spoke to the online department as to how we could load it up as a video, as the software did not have an export function. We only managed to find some software later that day and it took awhile to get it to a decent level, because the two programs just were not working ideally. I felt the time pressure because Sky News had used the same plans to draw up a static 3D image, and the BBC was planning to do what I did. On Friday morning, I managed to load my video to YouTube before our show started, and then we spread the word via social media. Within 24 hours I had something like 22 000 views and it was also used on other websites such as 2oceansvibe, IOL and Radio Jacaranda!
My next plan is to build a scale model of his bedroom in the spare area we have in Cape Town, so that presenters can walk through it themselves and literally get a sense of distance etc.
What other stories have you enjoyed working on, and which have made an impact on you?
I enjoy the thrill of the chase – I think all producers do – so when we get on big name personalities for the first time, I feel like I’ve achieved something. I remember when the movie Apollo 13 came out, I decided it would be great to track down Jim Lovell, the actual astronaut who was on board that fateful mission. He was impressed that we were interested in his story and obliged!
Then there are the human interest stories that affect our listeners. A few months back, we received a message from a listener that told us a family member’s 3 year old daughter was caught in the cross-fire of gangsters. She had about 6 bullets in her and survived. We try to speak to the mom as often as we can to remind us that this is the sad reality some members of our communities have to live with.
What has your work revealed to you about South Africa?
People think we (in the media) thrive on the doom-and-gloom, and that’s far from the truth. We celebrate the great that is within us all and try to spread this message. Despite the many challenges we face, we need to realise there are others a lot worse off than what we think, and that many of them still cling on the vision that things will get better. If we can take that vision for ourselves, we can get very far. I’m glad to be a part of the process.
What has working on radio taught you?
Resourcefulness! I come from an era when there was no internet, twitter nor Facebook, and had to use directory-enquiry services locally and internationally to find guests! I often sound like an old-man when I tell new producers how they give up too soon when they can’t locate a guest!
It’s amazing how much knowledge one gains by working on radio that I often have to keep quiet at gatherings for fear of being deemed a know-it-all.
Are there things you’d still like to achieve within the radio industry?
I’d like to mentor more producers and give them lessons in how to work smartly, as they sometimes get frustrated after just a few attempts.
Anything you’d like to add?
I grew up (in the late 70s and early 80’s) with older siblings listening to the radio all the time, and so it was a part of my life as well. I enjoyed the warmth it gave me when listening to quiz shows, comedies, music and such. My mother, an immigrant from China, had a short wave radio that she would use each afternoon to listen to a Taiwan-based radio station that broadcast in Cantonese for an hour or so each day. It meant so much to her.
There are many people like that still out there, and I feel like I’m helping them stay in touch with the world with what I do – no matter which show I work with.
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