Given that Zing Tsjeng grew up reading Jezebel and Vice magazine, it seems only fitting that years later she was chosen by ex-Jezebel veteran Tracie Egan Morrissey to be the UK editor of Vice’s female-focused channel Broadly. It probably helped that Zing's pre-Broadly CV reads like a who's who of the coolest media titles around - she earned her stripes as a journalist and editor at the likes of Wonderland and Dazed, before being snapped up by Broadly when it launched a year ago. As you'd expect from someone at the helm of one of the slickest feminist platforms around, Zing also gives off the air of a woman who - to be blunt - has her shit together. Maybe that's because she’s so relentlessly vocal about the most pressing issues affecting young women today - or maybe it’s just because of her signature leather choker. Read on to get her advice on negotiating your salary, and to find out which Nicki Minaj quote helps her get into a bossy frame of mind.
HOW SHE GOT INTO JOURNALISM
I didn’t even consider journalism as a career, even though I dicked around plenty on my student newspaper at university. I wrote on a very weird, expansive range of stuff — one week I would interview Tracey Emin’s ex Billy Childish and the next week I would hang out in artist squats. I won the Guardian Student Media award for Best Features Writer in my second year and that was when I thought, “Hmm, maybe I could give this a shot.” I ended up doing my MA in magazine journalism and was like, “Well I’ve spent money on this degree so I guess I actually need to be a journalist now.”
I’ve always worked on the digital side of things, even when I was working for magazines like Wonderland and Dazed. I like how fast it is — you’re able to react very quickly to current events. I’m impatient by nature, and I’m not used to print deadlines that are months away! Also, when you write and commission stories, you want as many eyeballs as possible to see it. With overall print circulation declining, that doesn’t happen if a story only exists in print.
ON THE BEST PARTS OF BEING AN EDITOR...
People drop great stories in my lap all the time – important, funny, intelligent, perspective-altering stuff. And I get the chance to read that before anyone else, so how lucky am I?
...AND THE MOST CHALLENGING
Balancing all the different aspects of being an editor – whether that’s working on video or text, commissioning photos, speaking to sources, working on longer investigations, editorial strategy etc. Leaping to and from all those different duties is a fine balancing act.
HOW SHE MAINTAINS A GOOD WORK-LIFE BALANCE
I’ve had to learn how to switch off and not look at my phone, especially when I’m out with friends. Unless I’m working on something urgent, or waiting to hear back from someone – no one’s going to die if I turn off Slack notifications on my iPhone. Also, just going out and being physical and in your body. I live so much in my head (and in words and emails) that I sometimes forget that I need to take care of my body. Just go out dancing to dumb, mindless music one night, or work out, or take a long bath or walk where you’re not looking at your phone or listening to a podcast or music. Just literally be in your body with zero distractions. It’s hard!
A RULE OF THUMB FOR NEGOTIATING PAYRISES
One thing I’ve found really useful is sticking to the 20% rule (or at least that’s what I call it). The next time you negotiate a salary or payment, ask for 20% more than you think you deserve – because you’ve almost definitely been undervalued, whether (unconsciously) by yourself, or by the people paying you. So just go for that extra 20%. You will feel like the world is going to explode because you’re daring to ask for more, but it won’t. Maybe your employers go for it, maybe they won’t – but you’ll definitely feel better for having tried. And once you’ve tried it once, that makes it easier to do it again.
"Ask for 20% more than you think you deserve."
STANDING HER GROUND
There’s an interview with Nicki Minaj where she talks about being ‘bossed up’ and standing up for herself, saying: “If I had accepted the pickle juice, I would be drinking pickle juice right now.” An old colleague and I turned that into our mantra. Every time we went into a meeting and we knew people were going to try and walk all over us, we would whisper, “don’t drink the pickle juice” to each other. Personally, I found it very helpful.
HER CURRENT (AND FUTURE) PROJECTS
I’m working on a few documentaries to be filmed in the UK and Europe, which is exciting. Broadly has become known for great, in-depth documentaries on everything from revenge porn to maternity leave, so I’m really excited to bring that focus closer to home.
I’m also semi-seriously working on a book about my family in Hong Kong, who basically lived through almost every major historical event in the Asia Pacific that you can think of. My great-granddad was a socialist revolutionary for Sun Yat-Sen, my grandparents lived through the Japanese occupation in WW2, then through more decades of British colonial rule, which was insane in its own way. My family tree has opium addicts, alcoholics, gamblers – at one point, my aunt’s nickname was the Mahjong Queen of Kowloon. It’s Joy Luck Club meets Indian Summers on steroids. My life is intensely boring in comparison.
ON HAVING A STRONG FEMALE NETWORK
I’ve always had a lot more female friends, but even more so now. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realised that women are able to support women in a way that is uniquely affirming and helpful – especially career wise.