“I wanted to be a radio presenter, but was told I don’t have a ‘radio voice’. That I should try for a ‘television face’. I wanted to travel and do documentaries…to cover the Bosnian War, but I was told, ‘we don’t send women’. I knew I had to work harder to prove my worth in a male-dominated industry back in the 80’s. An unspoken truth, but a known fact.”
I appreciated the raw candor from a woman whom I have respected and admired for decades. The most elegant, sophisticated, and eloquent, Lorraine Veronica Hahn.
Lorraine is a multifaceted, veteran journalist, who has garnered distinction as one of Asia’s most widely known and watched female reporters. A graduate in Business and English Literature from The University of British Columbia, her list of accomplishments is astounding: News Reporter, Presenter, News Editor, Producer, Anchor at CNN, CNBC and NBC; she is a speaker, moderator, lecturer, and media trainer.
During an enlightening conversation with this maverick journalist, I learned not only the art of journalism, but the style as well. Lorraine has had an immeasurable impact on her profession (and her viewers) by carrying herself with a rugged, sturdy grace.
Born in Singapore, her family emigrated to Vancouver, Canada in 1979. Her father was Korean, her grandfather was Chinese, her grandmother an Irish Laotian. Lorraine was a product of Asia, and after completing her studies, returned to live in Hong Kong, which became her home.
In our interconnected, social media driven world, it is sometimes difficult to appreciate the role of a journalist. Particularly, how difficult it is to “make it”, much less “succeed” in the industry, as a female.
Yet, Lorraine is the consummate journalist who readily adapted the trademark journalistic qualities: brevity, accuracy, and impartiality. In a word, integrity. Whether on-camera or behind the scenes, in a studio or out on the streets, she dedicated herself to acquiring as much knowledge and experience as she could.
“Learning motivates me, and I love helping people, listening to people can be a part of learning.”
“I practice using open-ended questions as this allows me for follow ups for other questions. Be vulnerable, don’t be afraid to ask a question, stupid or otherwise though you may think, just ask it, and take what you can learn from it.”
Over her career, Lorraine deployed her sharply honed investigative skills, a unique interviewing prowess, well-developed research techniques, and a bold reporting style to produce enthralling stories. It is her gift of maintaining an unprejudiced mindset that endeared her to her fans and allowed many friendships to blossom.
A Knack for Storytelling
Armed with determination and resilience, Lorraine continued to work hard to achieve her goals and dreams.
A reporter at Commercial Broadcasting Corporation in Hong Kong, Lorraine’s persistence secured her a position as Senior Reporter at Television Broadcasts Limited. At TVB she was responsible for the station’s daily English financial news program. One of her more memorable events, as a budding reporter, was covering the Hong Kong stock market crash of 1989…live!
Her discipline and sound work ethics opened up doors at Metro Radio, Hong Kong’s first twenty-four-hour radio station, where she was the Financial News Editor.
Journalism is clearly a demanding endeavor. How did you adapt so well?
“Juggling the variety of roles in the studio, anywhere from editing stories to providing voice-overs are common. Preparing the stories for coverage for multiple mediums can be overwhelming. There are many hurdles…learning to practice and embrace them is critical…having to cover a lot of ground with very little resources, responding to each event as they occur, longer working hours to get it on air…”
Lorraine’s knack for reporting stories in a variety of media formats propelled her to the position of Senior Producer at Television Broadcasts Limited, at which she was challenged with developing a program which focused on China business. The timing could not have been more perfect, as China began its emergence onto the global economic stage.
Soon after, Li Ka-Shing, revered as one of the most influential and wealthiest businessmen in Asia, recognized Lorraine’s sound business acumen and hired her as Financial Editor. She was the first person in The China Business Report.
As Lorraine’s expertise and penchant for delivering the highest quality reporting grew, so did her accomplishments. She quickly rose to the ranks of “A-list” which launched her beyond local news coverage onto a growing regional platform.
From 1995-1998 Lorraine was Anchor for CNBC/NBC’s top Programs: “Business Tonight”, “The Winners”, “Talk of Asia”, “Business Class”, and “The NBC Asia Evening News”. During which, she anchored the live historic coverage of Hong Kong’s return to China in July, 1997.
Lorraine anchored CNN’S leading financial newscast, “Biz Asia”, from 1998-2000. The program covered economic, corporate, and political news affecting business in Asia and around the world. Her success helped her to garner the “Highly Commended News Presenter/Anchor” award at The Asian TV Awards in 1999.
From the rarified world of reporting on business and finance, Lorraine gravitated towards the growing arena of “talk TV”, interviewing renown personalities. In 2001 she anchored CNN’s regional talk show, “Talk Asia”. Some of her guests included politicians such as Malaysia’s Prime Ministers, Mahathir Mohamed, and Abdullah Badawi. Sports legend Tiger Woods and music icon Sir Elton John.
Lorraine’s learning mindset grants her to take feedback positively, to adapt, change and grow. Her self-awareness recognizes the ability to look at herself objectively, to accept both her strengths and weaknesses. Her energy and enthusiasm draw people to her. Her exceptional communication skills enable creative conversations with her guests. She organizes thoughts in a cohesive and structured manner, expressing them with clarity.
Her professionalism, reputation and genuinely attractive personality gained her many fans as she soon became a favorite amongst many, not just in Hong Kong but globally.
With all of her accomplishments in news journalism, Lorraine was increasingly drawn towards making documentaries. Delving more deeply into the stories within the “story”.
Why is making documentaries so compelling to you?
“A million-dollar question. Because I am motivated to travel, understand culture, experience people and places. I love writing my stories on where I have been and be able to share my situational learning experiences with my viewers. I am passionate about research and digging deep to investigate an event or interview people to create news.”
As we talked, Lorraine reflected on some of the more memorable, life changing experiences she had, as well as the fascinating people she met.
“…in Thailand I met a recovering leper who was my tuk-tuk driver that day.”
“It was a blessing to be able to visit the Ganges River in Varanasi. This was an eye opener for me. The camera cannot capture all of the details such as the eyes do in person. A river that is so pristine and crystal clear. One that is sacred to its people. A water source to hundreds of millions of people. Then it transforms into a toxic sludge due to heavy pollution, the peoples’ religious beliefs, poverty, and over-usage.”
“Discovering Ma On Shan…visiting the largest coal mine in China, I stayed in a dorm room with no locked doors, eating rice and water for days!”
Dynamic & Dangerous
“In Johannesburg, I was accosted by four gunmen holding a gun to my chest! Though we were staying in one of the best hotels, there wasn’t sufficient security to protect us. They got away with all of our stuff inclusive of all of our pictures. Upon investigation of the CCT cameras, we knew it was an inside job. This event really shook me up!”
“Upon reflection, I learned humility from all of my travels and stories, a lesson that I keep close to my heart.”
With fame come the famous. Lorraine acquired a repertoire of interviews with some of the world’s most famous and infamous people.
“The late Lee Kwan Yew, First Prime Minister of Singapore. One had to be prepared for his love of challenging the questions delivered to him by the interviewers.”
“I got a CNN World Exclusive with the then Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamed.”
“Jose Ramos Horta President of East Timor; I recall his frustration on not being able to get Panadol, a basic med.”
“Sir Elton John was fascinating, sensitive. He shared his stories of struggle openly.”
“The Chairman of Hong Kong Bank, singing Danny Boy.”
“Tiger Woods in China. He was charming and showed me how to hold my irons right. I was trying to golf 12 years ago.”
What about the difficult interviews? It must be nerve wracking.
“Henry Kissinger, former US Secretary of State, who wrote the “book” on China. He was formidable and irritated by so many questions from me.”
“There is always a struggle to meet deadlines…Government Press conferences just two minutes before edit time…biting nails experiences especially during “Breaking News” segments.
Did you ever have a mishap?
“Yes! Black-belt actor, Jean-Claude Van Damme. He had come in with his wife, and I made a Freudian slip as I was trying to introduce him [his movie] as a “hard cop”…. instead I introduced him as “Hard C**k”!”
What is your preference? To be behind or in front of the cameras?
“Front, even though the pressure is immense, because your every move and words are watched. I find it easier and more fun.”
After she left CNN, Lorraine hosted a twenty-six-episode golf program, Executive Golf, for the Indonesian channel, where she was called to interview top business leaders and politicians on various golf courses in Indonesia.
She even took time to start her own video show, “The Lorraine Hahn Show.” In preparation for our interview, I took time to watch some of the episodes, where she showcases local entrepreneurs and offers small bites on food, fashion, lifestyle. One of the episodes brought back fond memories, where Hong Kong’s celebrity stylist, Kim Robinson, shares his tips on creating the right style to suit a face. A dear friend of mine from back in the days!
From 2006-2009 Lorraine hosted and produced a solutions-based environmental program, Earth Factor Asia for PBS network in North America. The show highlighted environmental issues and solutions in the Asia region.
What prompted you to focus on environmental matters?
“I wanted to focus on the challenges Asia faced. One of the stories was to track the river Ganges, the other one was about the coal mines in China.”
Projects to pursue in the future?
“I am in pursuit of high-profile work projects.”
This high-octane exceptional woman is presently providing media training for various organizations as well as training Bloomberg Anchors.
She has been called upon to be Master of Ceremony and Chairperson of various major events that include the APEC Economic Leaders and CEO Meeting, Global Leadership Forum, ADB Journalism Award, Asian Financial Forum as well as TEDx Talks to name a few.
Personal or professional mantra?
“Be humble, prepare well and be passionate about what you do. Never give up as there will always be someone better, smarter, and stronger than you, just keep on working hard.
Have compassion, humanity needs it more than ever. Always report facts, not opinions.
What wellness rituals do you stand by to maintain work-life balance?
“Television make-up takes a toll on your skin, travelling and working outdoors in different weather environment dehydrates your skin. I wash my face thoroughly. Drink lots of water, exercise, take vitamins and eat lots of vegetables. Try to sleep 8 hours each night. I enjoy playing golf though it is not as easy these days in Hong Kong to book a course. I love swimming, horse riding and walking with my two bull dogs Attila and Brandy.”
“As I mature, I recognize the many challenges that life blesses us with. It is definitely easier to say ‘bring it on’ when you have that youthful stamina. I believe in finding humor in all life’s challenges, laughing before during or after an interview, it makes it that much more fun! Humor and keeping a positive outlook are wholesome.”
Do you miss Canada?
“Yes, it has a special place in my heart. I tend to spend time with my good friends and visit favorite places when I am there.”
A woman of substance, humanitarian, recognized and admired for her force and trait, particularly how she pushes herself and sets her own goals. Lorraine Hahn has unquestionably left her fingerprints in each respective of her work and service to her community and globally.
Empowering the Voiceless
Possibly her crowning achievement that brought Hahn much elation, was to gift her late father the opportunity to be granted to return to Singapore after a span of thirty-seven years. Lorraine was most influential and successful in exercising this by way of her credit and prestige in appealing to the late Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Kwan Yew.
Any advice for those looking to pursue journalism?
“Being on television may appear to be glamorous and fun. Choose your battles wisely and with humility as there can be prideful people in this profession. Be vigilant and tread carefully, keep an open mind to learning new things and adapting to change meticulously.
“You will never know until you experience this; and if you have the gumption, it all works out in the end.”
Journalism empowers the voiceless and influences the world to move to a better future by how they frame their stories. Lorraine is certainly one woman who has bettered the future of people across Asia by telling the stories that needed to be heard. She continues to leave an indelible imprint.