Kim Cúc: journalism - a lifetime passion

Hòa An
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(VOVworld) – Working and bringing the best things to everybody has become her happiness in life.

(VOVworld) – Working and bringing the best things to everybody has become her happiness in life.

1. Thirty years ago, there was a VOV writer who left a deep impression on listeners. She was journalist Nguyễn Thị Kim Cúc—a reporter for the News and Current Affairs Department and VOV’s Deputy Director General. Although very few listeners got a chance to meet her in person, the stories she presented on the radio won many admirers who sent her letters full of warm emotion.

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Journalist Nguyễn Thị Kim Cúc

Journalist Kim Cúc still has many of those letters, which she considers precious reminders of an important part of her life. Their encouragement helped her overcome many difficulties.

Many letters in her collection are from Nguyễn Văn Trợ, now 70, from Máy Đường village, Chiềng Pấc commune, Thuận Châu district, in Sơn La province. Like an intimate friend, Trợ talks about how his fellow villagers love listening to the radio and about paying the agricultural tax in unhusked rice. He even describes taking a ‘xe ôm’ or motorbike taxi 30km to get the photograph and letter Kim Cúc sent his family sealed in protective plastic covers.

Another devoted friend and fan was a young girl from Sìn Hồ, Lai Châu province, who sent Kim Cúc a letter 13 years ago saying she was very confused and frightened because she had suddenly lost all the strength in her legs. Filled with desperation, she put all her faith in journalist Kim Cúc, who was just a voice on the radio.

Not making the girl wait any longer than necessary, Ms. Cúc replied immediately with a letter and on the air via the program ‘Your radio’ to encourage the girl to patiently exercise to regain her strength. An exchange of letters brought the two of them very close. One day Kim Cúc received the wonderful news that the girl could walk again.

Another loyal listener was Hàn Lang, a teacher in Phú Thọ province, who has now listened to VOV for almost 60 years and has repeatedly written letters to Ms. Cúc full of sincere feeling and useful advice.

2. As a radio reporter, Ms Cúc has worked tirelessly over the past 36 years to win listeners’ hearts. In 1970, the schoolgirl Kim Cúc graduated from the Faculty of Literature of Vietnam National University – Hanoi, full of the enthusiasm of youth with the country at war.

She said: “At that time everybody was boiling with the dream of making contributions to the country. For us, doing anything was happiness if we could just contribute our little effort to the national revolution. I was lucky enough to be assigned to work at CP90 – the code name for Liberation Radio. When I learned I would become an editor/reporter for Liberation Radio, I felt happy and honored”.

Despite the hardships of the initial days, she and her colleagues did their best to find a solution to every problem and found significance in their work. Kim Cúc still remembers what Mr. Nguyễn Thành, the Director and Editor-in-chief of Radio CP90 told her: “Although we don’t have to go into battle, the work here is very rapid and demanding. You will become mature in the profession and political awareness if you love the job and have enthusiasm. I hope you will do your best to deserve the title of editor and rerporter of Liberation Radio”.

Working at CP90 left the most profound impression on journalist Kim Cúc and her young colleagues. They will never forget one event that occurred at noon on April 30th, 1975, when they all burst into tears at being informed that Sài Gòn was liberated.

Ms Cúc says: “All the editors, reporters, and technicians were filled with joy and deep emotion. There was the sound of firecrackers, laughter in workrooms, and crying with tears of joy…”.

3. As a reporter of the News and Current Affairs Department, Ms Cúc had many opportunities to travel. Each trip added to her experience of people and life. Each of her reports was full of emotion and concern about the journalist’s responsibility for life and human fate. That attitude drove Ms. Cúc to read each letter sent to the Department carefully and respectfully.

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A strength of Kim Cúc’s journalism widely recognized by listeners and colleagues was providing live commentary on major events (Photo: Hong Quan)

An investigation into the death of 5th-grader Nguyễn Văn Thanh in Vĩnh Phú (now Phú Thọ) province 25 years ago began from a letter sent to VOV.

A “Letter to call for help” sent by villagers of Hiền Lương in Sông Thao district drew her attention. She read carefully every word of the letter and asked the Department leaders to let her cooperate with colleagues from other newspapers to uncover the facts.

To reach Hiền Lương village, the reporters had to take a ferry-boat and then go on foot for many kilometers. They worked around the clock to get to the bottom of what had happened.

Following a series of investigative reports by Kim Cúc broadcast on VOV and published in several newspapers, the truth about the poor child’s death became clear and the perpetrator was sentenced to 15 years in prison.

Kim Cúc’s investigative report received a certificate of merit from the Vietnam Journalists’ Association.

4. A strength of Kim Cúc’s journalism widely recognized by listeners and colleagues was providing live commentary on major events like parades, celebrations of Vietnam’s August Revolution and National Day, Party National Congresses, National Assembly sessions, and ceremonies to welcome heads of state to Vietnam.

Ms. Cúc had the honor of being assigned to Brunei to report on Vietnam’s official admission to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 1995. Whenever she was given such an important reporting mission, she made a point of creating a stirring report of the event on VOV.

For 30 years she devoted herself to her radio broadcasting work. In 1994, journalist Kim Cúc was appointed Deputy Director of VOV’s News and Current Affairs Department. Two years later she became the first deputy department director to be nominated Deputy Director General.

During a decade in management, Ms Cúc joined other VOV leaders in trying to figure out how to renovate their radio programs to compete with the other forms of mass media which were starting to become popular. They decided live broadcasts would attract more listeners, and to this day live broadcasts continue to be one of VOV’s most effective modes of communication.

As a VOV Deputy Director General, journalist Kim Cúc no longer had time to write investigative reports, but her professional passion was always flaring up in her. She encouraged and created the best possible conditions for young reporters to do the job.

Under the competent direction of journalist/manager Kim Cúc, VOV investigative reports continued to impress the public. One outstanding example was a report by Minh Đức on the demolishing of Hanoi’s Đồng Xuân market after it was badly damaged by a fire.

The case began with female engineer Hứa Thúy Lan’s pleas for help. Lan had been assigned to supervise the demolishing of one fourth of the market. But when Lan denounced the market’s management board for corruption worth billions of Vietnamese dong, she was slandered and sacked.

She sought help from a number of agencies but received no cooperation. At times Lan became so filled with despair that she considered suicide.

After studying the case for 2 years, from 1999 to 2001, VOV reporter Minh Đức brought the story out into the open.

Hứa Thúy Lan was restored to her previous position with full back pay, but more importantly, restored Lan’s professional reputation and her faith in justice. Kim Cúc, Minh Đức, and Ms Hứa Thúy Lan became close friends.

Over the past 8 years, as chair of the Female Journalists’ Club and editor-in-chief of the special publication ‘Female journalists’, Kim Cúc has continued to be involved in press activities. She and the Club’s directorate often organize fact-finding tours for female journalists who produce articles and reports that have had a wide social influence.

5. Ms Cúc says that after 40 years devoted to her career she now wants more time for herself, her family, and her friends. She wants to relax and experience life with peace in her soul.

Retirement, it is sometimes thought, makes people older because they miss the former excitement. But for journalist Kim Cúc this hasn’t been true. She seems younger and more beautiful. In particular, the look in her eyes continues to warm the heart of whoever is lucky enough to talk to her.

Due perhaps to her love of life and people, her small but beautiful apartment seems full of warmth. Clocks, cute animals carved from stone or wood, dolls, and Gods of Wealth collected on business trips in Vietnam or abroad reflect her humor and vitality. And in the place of honor are preserved the souvenirs and momentos of her long career in radio.

Ms. Cúc said: “When you have to say goodbye to any passion, a person will remember with regret and feel an attachment. It’s the same for any passion for any profession, but especially for journalism which pursues us all our life.... From the depth of my heart, journalism is my flesh and blood, my forever love.”

Showing the letters sent to her by listeners, her eyes dewed with tears. The letter Colonel Nguyễn Thuận sent from Big Trường Sa Island 17 years ago has changed color and the sender has already passed away. But she preserves it carefully like a precious treasure. Every time she opens it, she relives her memories of Truong Sa – the country’s sacred territorial waters.

Seventeen years ago she was the first female reporter to go to Truong Sa archipelago. The island’s scenery and people moved her. She cried when she saw the national flag streaming in the wind. She cried because she had the opportunity to witness the simple meal of the soldiers stationed on the island. She felt her throat choke with emotion when she listened to each performance by the soldier artists. The island’s soldiers presented twigs of phong ba birch trees instead of flowers to congratulate the artists.

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Phong Ba Birch Tree (Photo: Le Ba Duong)

Filled with emotion, she wrote a poem entitled “The phong ba birch tree” which is literally translated as follows:

Flowers cannot grow on the island

so the soldiers present twigs of phong ba birch trees to the artists after each performance

The twigs are passed from hand to hand with a fond smile and look

The twigs are so striking in the middle of the open sea

Which gave the name to the tree

How beautiful it is

It seems not to tremble with fear of the myriads of ocean waves

Like the soldiers who stand firm to guard the island

Now flowers can be planted on the island

So the soldiers bestow the twigs on the singers after they sing a song

The Lý folk tune “Lý thương nhau” becomes sweeter

And the Quan Ho folk song “Please don’t go” keeps singing

Her sensitive heart seemed to reverberate to the life of the island soldiers. When she returned to the mainland, she was moved to receive a letter from Colonel Nguyễn Thuận. He wrote: “I’m so sad because I couldn’t listen to your report broadcast on April 15th, 1995. At that time I was busy at the construction site. But my comrades told me about it later, saying Ms. Cúc must surely have a great love for the island soldiers to write such a profound and earnest report on their life. …Don’t be surprised to learn that over the past 19 days, every day there has been someone in building P4 talking about you. Listening to what they say about you, I see how much they love and respect you. The soldiers say: Ms. Cúc is slender in her appearance but strong in her writing, tender in her communication, and has a deep soul”.

That is journalist Kim Cúc who has always devoted herself wholeheartedly to her work. Her pleasure is to work and bring the most beautiful things to others. For her that is happiness.