SMILE: Més que un ‘plàstic’*——Jeromy Chan

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This merry prankster has bucked the social media trend to build a huge following for his quirky look at international media.

* The word ‘plastic’ (膠, gaau1) in Cantonese is the euphemistic colloquial expression of ‘silly’ (鳩, gau1).

Jeromy Chan is the merry prankster of the Hong Kong media scene, a joker of the Italian Renaissance style. But his playful manner belies his wide reach across the Hong Kong online media world. His unique focus on exotic international news has given him a huge platform to reach people with his own ideas  – and news for hire. He is one of the popular social media owners in Hong Kong.

There is a popular term in recent Hong Kong called ‘toying plastic’ (玩膠)– meaning the action of spreading illogical ideas to prank someone, and it is not difficult to find these pages on social media. One of them is Gazzetta universale ed esotiche (寰雨膠事錄), also known as Gausee. Its owner Jeromy Chan (陳予) admits he originally saw the page as a toy, but now it is already more than a toy.

Chan became a ‘wikipedian’ (volunteering editor of Wikipedia) in 2004 with his username “YUYU”. In 2013, he was the chairperson of Wikimania Hong Kong conference. As a journalism graduate, he worked as a social media editor of a local TV. Currently, he is a social media editor of a local environmental NGO.

The Merry Prankster

Since 2010, Chan started writing articles on his own blog and later opening his own Facebook page Gausee. Different from other pages mainly focusing on local Hong Kong news, Gausee picks global exotic news as its reporting material. The page now has over 19,000 Likes, and Chan has decided to expand his business by releasing paid news notifications through Whatsapp.

1. How did you come up with the page name?

Chan: Actually it comes from my nickname. People always mix up my Chinese name ‘予’ (jyu5, meaning ‘give’) with other characters like ‘雨’ (jyu5, meaning ‘rain’). Many people do not want to use their real name when about writing political issues, myself included. Originally I want to use ‘gausee’ as the domain name of page, but as I technically failed to do so, I choose to make it into I bought this domain name in Estonia. (Editor note: Gazzetta universale ed esotiche is the backronym of ‘gausee’ (膠事, gaau1si6, meaning exotic news).)

2. Most local social media focus on local news, why do you choose international news?

Chan: The page is not a well-planned project. I had no ambitions at the beginning. Is that one day I was desperate to tell my friends that I needed to create a social media to save the world? No such thing. The initiative of the page originates from a very personal issue. I have a bachelor and a masters degree in journalism, but at the very beginning I find no jobs in media, so I decide to write some articles in my leisure time. First, I just rewrote and translated some interesting news from Yahoo. I put them on WordPress and take it as enhancing my writing skills only. I never thought of having my blog or page at that moment. But later on I received feedback from readers, so I kept it up. Even still, I still keep writing the articles randomly. An article can be just a fews words that I write on the tram or MTR train.

3. Nowadays many social media mavens have their own stance, and combine with their supporters to form an opinion group. Which kind of people you think your page will attract?

Chan: I can give you some data. If you know me, you will probably know what kind of people is my page attracting. I screen out those who flood comments in my page and also those who are left-wings or pro-Beijing, so the remaining readers should be localists. Also, my writing style is so random that many traditional readers cannot tolerate it. The resulting audience is men who support Umbrella Movement are the fans of my page.

4. Apart from the Facebook page, you also have Telegram and Whatsapp channels. Do you think social media is facing a transformation?

Chan: I think it is not the time. Although the regulations of Facebook annoy me, it is hard to change people’s behaviour on the Internet once they settle down. For example, the most popular search engine in Hong Kong is still Yahoo, not Google. Once people get used to one platform, it is difficult for them to change their habit. [My audience won’t change] Unless Facebook is closed, or otherwise people won’t find the substitute.

5. Do you ever think of achieving some goal with the page?

Chan: Um… nothing. As I have mentioned, this page is just a personal interest and part of my life. It is a tool to train my writing skills, share funny news and interact with my readers. The short term goal I want to achieve is covering the cost that I spend on subscribing to different newspapers [through his revenue generated], a goal that I have now reached. I don’t know whether other media would subscribe to other newspapers for their reporters to read. I think if you stay behind the paywall like The Times, you would find it hard to keep updated on British politics. Before I started providing the news notification service in Whatsapp, I subscribed to newspapers with my own money. But now, the subscription fees collected from the Whatsapp service already cover my operation costs. I don’t want to pretend I am so poor and ask for donations. What I want is, “I provide paid service for you, and if you dislike it then you can just stop the subscription”. For having a mobile app, I’m still thinking as I have to follow the latest development of news apps and it is not an easy task for me.

[starbox desc=”Timmy Chiu

Chiu is an intern at Harbour Times. He studies Journalism in Hang Seng Management College.