Australian editors’ enthusiasm for Vietnam’s radio

(VOVworld) – Many foreign English editors have worked at the English section of the Overseas Service but the most dedicated ones have been perhaps Iain Finlay and Trish Clark.

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I got to know Iain Finlay and Trish Clark through an unpleasant incident back in 2003. At that time the Overseas Service (VOVworld) was allowed by the VOV Office to put up partitions between studios and editorial sections and offices for department heads. I went with several other men from the Office to the 3rd floor of the 45 Ba Trieu building to inspect the measuring and remodeling.

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President Tran Duc Luong visits the Overseas Service

When she saw me Trish said in a loud voice: “Do what you please but don’t touch the English section because it would look unpleasant and be inconvenient”. I replied: “Don’t worry! We won’t touch anything”. I was a bit annoyed because the partitioning had nothing to do with the foreign editors. It was an internal matter.

But out of respect for their opinion we did not partition the English section. Later we realized that Trish was right. The model of an open editorial office was replicated throughout VOV. Iain Finlay and Trish Clark were sent to work in Vietnam by Australia Volunteer International (AVI). Iain and Trish were reporters during the Vietnam War in the 1970s. They have been journalists, foreign correspondents, radio and TV producers and presenters and authors. They co-founded the internationally successful science program for television, Beyond 2000. The staff of the English section say there have been many foreign English editors in the office but perhaps the most professional and dedicated to VOV have been Iain and Trish. Frank and sociable, they helped the young editors and reporters improve their journalistic skills and sometimes participated in VOV’s radio programs. Iain and Trish also took part in other activities of the Overseas Service.

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Iain and Trish and the English section

During an art program to celebrate VOV’s founding anniversary Iain and Trish joined a choir of the youth union of the Overseas Service to sing the official song of the 22nd Sea Games. It was perhaps because of these foreigners that the Jury awarded that performance first prize.

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Iain and Trish in the choir performing the Sea Games song

In 2006 Iain and Trish returned to Hanoi to promote their book “Good morning Hanoi” and provide consultation for VOV on a 24/7 English channel. At a ceremony to introduce their book at the Goethe Institute in Hanoi, Iain and Trish said they were impressed with the dramatic changes in Vietnam and admired the tolerance of Vietnamese people, who they said deserve a peaceful and happy life.

Their 400-page book recounts their impressions of Vietnam and its people during their 15 months working as English editors at the English section of the Voice of Vietnam. The book mixes interesting stories with their sense of humor to present a positive look at Vietnam and their enthusiasm for Vietnamese radio.

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In the book, Iain and Trish talk a lot about their Vietnamese neighbors and their hospitality although they communicated mostly through body language. Iain and Trish rented a small apartment in Ly Thuong Kiet street. They describe experience of festive occasions in Vietnam like the Mid-autumn festival, the traditional lunar new year festival, and the forgiving of the sins of the dead, and recount visits to Ha Long, Tam Coc-Bich Dong, Cuc Phuong national park, and Sapa to see the traditional costumes and practices of the local ethnic people.

In addition to many interesting stories, the book is illustrated with numerous photos taken by Iain and Trish during their stay in Vietnam. Among those photos are a Xe om driver sleeping on his motorbike while waiting for a customer, a street vendor wearing a conical hat and a face mask like a ninja, some retired men reading newspapers in a park, and a boy repairing a motorbike on the pavement, reflections of the authors’ interest in the daily life of Vietnamese people.

Iain and Trish said the changes taking place at the Voice of Vietnam are positive but some things still remain to be done. In 3 months, working like “diplomats” Trish said, they wrote 3 detailed reports on the processes needed to establish a 24/7 English channel. The reports refer to the target audience, programming, personnel, finance, and technology for the new channel. Their work suggested a feasibility project for VOV.

I was moved to receive the copy of the book “Good morning Hanoi” they gave me. In it they had expressed in French the feelings of two Australian friends. Hopefully VOV’s 24/7 English channel will soon be a reality and the book: “Good morning Hanoi” will be published in Vietnamese translation./.