Alexandra Hoegberg
5 July 2024
Paavan Mathema and Sonia Awale
8 July 2024

Zela Chin

Asian-American journalist wants to ‘give voice to the voiceless’

Zela Chin (MJ 2010) is the supervising producer for Pearl Magazine, TVB Pearl’s weekly, prime-time documentary programme. 

She leads a team of cameramen, editors and visual directors to produce 10-minute feature reports on current affairs in Hong Kong, ranging from social issues to business and new trends. 

Her most memorable story was “Pandemic Poverty.” Produced in 2020, it highlighted how poor people dealt with the Covid-19 pandemic in Hong Kong.

One of them was a teenage girl who was raised by a single mother. The girl used to be in accelerated courses at school, but when students had to do online learning, she fell behind because she did not have a computer and had to take classes on her smartphone.

Zela reporting at Hong Kong’s global financial leaders investment summit in November 2023

Zela reporting on intravenous therapy in Hong Kong in 2020

“Pandemic Poverty” touched so many hearts that some viewers wrote to the station and offered to help the people featured in the programme. 

“I think ‘Pandemic Poverty’ was a powerful report because it was very relatable,” Zela said. 

“The report reinforced a fundamental reason why I became a journalist, to give voice to the voiceless.” 

She later wrote “Pandemic Poverty” as part of the anthology book, “The Stories Women Journalists Tell,” published in 2022. 

 

Hailing from Los Angeles, Zela started her journalism career working at CNN’s headquarters in Atlanta and later moved to CNN in Hong Kong. “After a few years, CNN wanted me to return to Atlanta, but I chose to stay in Asia and enrolled in the JMSC,” she said.  

Her study allowed her not only to explore different forms of journalism, from print to photography to digital, but also pushed her to do something different. 

“I vividly remember my TV reporting lecturer, Jim Laurie, looking at my résumé and recommending that I intern at the Phnom Penh Post newspaper in Cambodia during the winter of 2009-2010,” Zela recalled.

Cambodia became her first reporting stint outside Hong Kong and the United States. “Ever since then, I’ve taken every opportunity I can to report abroad. I’ve reported in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, mainland China, and others,” she said. 

Zela joined TVB in 2010, reporting and producing features for TVB’s business programmes, Money Magazine and Money Matters, before moving to Pearl Magazine. She has won multiple awards, including two from Mind HK for “Going Mental,” a report on mental health in the city during the pandemic.

Zela reporting in Yangon, Myanmar, in 2017

Zela reporting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 2015

For the past two years, she has also been working on interviewing international scientists who received the Shaw Prize, the annual scientific awards established by Run Run Shaw, the late media mogul who founded TVB. The English-language project for TVB required her to travel around the world, including eight cities in the US in just over two weeks. 

Zela, who serves as the executive vice president for the Asia chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), and a journalist governor of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club Hong Kong, advised young and aspiring journalists “to be flexible and keep learning” and “continue to upskill.” 

“The journalism industry is constantly changing, and you have to be flexible and change with it,” she said.