17 September 2019
House News was founded by Tony Tsoi (inset) in 2012, a pioneering internet media platform in Hong Kong. Photo: House News
House News was founded by Tony Tsoi (inset) in 2012, a pioneering internet media platform in Hong Kong. Photo: House News

House News: Fond memories of a neighbor and peer

Two weeks ago, my old friend Kuen called to ask for my ex-boss’s contact number, and I invited him for lunch with my current boss Jeff. Kuen brought along his comrade Mike. 

We’re neighbors, actually, our offices both in Kwun Tong. We also work in the same line of business. We’re from EJ Insight, and they’re from House News, both news portals. 

I know Kuen and Mike very well. I read their stuff almost every day, and I know the duo are the best in my generation.

As we were having our lunch (we went Dutch, but we had Japanese curry rice), we naturally talked shop. We compared notes on what buzz words would get the best hits, and joked about some of the bloggers’ latest posts.

When we were done, the House News duo invited us to a tour of their office.

“Sorry, folks, I’ll leave you now,” I said. “As you can see, I’m wearing shorts and sandals today.” 

Don’t be silly,” Kuen retorted. “Only Legco would ban Long Hair from wearing shorts.”

I have been to the House News office twice. The first time was in October 2012, when I attended a party they threw for their bloggers. I, along with a dozen other writers, got treated to a few rounds of red wine and snacks in appreciation of our unpaid contributions.

The office was located beside a mini gallery cum retail shop operated by cultural godfather Danny Yung Ning-tsun. But first you have to figure how to use the old lift in order to get there. It’s quite small. About a dozen editorial staff sat on a long table, as if they would have enjoyed fine dining if they were given knives and forks in front of their computers.

Despite its modern feel, the office had no television. Not that they didn’t have the budget for it, but because of the poor signal in the old industrial building. Instead they had Now TV on iPad, which surprised me because House News often scooped rivals on such news as that “shallow, ignorant, cold-blooded and unfeeling” rant by Leung Chun-ying’s wife Regina a month ago.

The staff were not only dedicated and highly competent, but romantic as well. They called themselves news curators, not reporters. One side of their business card was the usual name and contact, but the other side was a slogan (my favorite: “Don’t shoot the messenger!”). I’m poor at recalling faces, but I remember quite distinctly that all of them are young. And exceptionally productive: Each writer posted an average of 10 articles daily, although not all of them were original.

The staff came from different universities, although not one was a product of journalism school. This made their supervisors worry that they would be pepper-sprayed for standing too close to the action during demonstrations.

They worked around the clock, just like their supervisors. I could recall having a late night dinner with Kuen, who did not pick up the chopsticks because he was too busy with his iPad uploading the most popular articles on Facebook. And often he wanted to update stories even if it was past midnight.

All these are now just fond memories after the abrupt closure of House News was announced over the weekend.

My friends, who always complained of being “wired” to their work and not having had a long enough holiday, can now all enjoy a good short break. They certainly deserve it. After all, it was a long struggle they waged since they debuted at the peak of the anti-national education campaign and bowed out on the eve of the Occupy Central civil disobedience drive.

It has been an amazing and inspiring run. Life is not always predictable, but I’m sure of one thing: Kuen and Mike will still be around as writers because they are so good in what they do.

In these critical times, it would be more assuring if I know both of them are still in the business.

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House News office in an industrial building in Kwun Tong. About a dozen editorial staff work on a long table in the office. Photo: Facebook

EJ Insight writer