Why I became a journalist
Because it humbles me.
Growing up in a Los Angeles suburb, I had a lot of stereotypes of people in the Midwest, particularly those who grew up in less diverse, rural areas. Quite frankly, I feared many would be racist and unwelcoming. I came to college in Missouri afraid of how people would perceive an Asian American like me.
Instead, through reporting and speaking with people, I realized I was the ignorant one making assumptions about people. That if I had grown up in their circumstances, I honestly would be no better or no worse.
Journalism has done that multiple times for me – putting myself into others’ shoes and making me acknowledge that I know nothing. Like any other person, I can be quick to judge and quick to think I know what’s right. But this profession like no other keeps me in check.
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What I like best about my job
I don’t know; there are a lot of parts about my job I equally like and dislike. But I’d say I like putting stories together. Coming up with a unique story idea, figuring out whom I need to contact, looking at what data I have to dig into and then piecing that all together into one well-laid-out story – there’s something oddly satisfying about that.
At the same time, it can get annoying when nobody is calling you back. So please answer my calls.
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A story I worked on that has had a lasting impact on me
There are quite a few examples before my time in Ohio. But if we want one here in the Buckeye State, where I’ve lived for less than a year….
My colleague Laura Bischoff and I recently worked together over a month on an in-depth look into the rise of the anti-vaccine mandate movement here in Ohio during the COVID-19 pandemic. We talked with both public health and medical freedom folks for the story, and I think we painted a pretty interesting picture that others haven’t.
The impact on me, though, is that this project made me really look face-on for the first time how journalism, in general, covers communities who are skeptical of the media, be they communities of color or rural areas. And I honestly don’t know if we’re doing a good job of that, or even worse, if we’re even attempting to in the first place.
And while I do share my paper’s goal of getting more subscribers (and you should subscribe), simply chasing people who are likely to read our work isn’t going to help our democracy. We should be actively opening our doors to people who distrust the media.
But hey, what do I know? I’m just a young reporter. All I’m saying is, for the rest of my career, it’s something I’ll always question.
The biggest challenge I face
A friend of mine from the church I attended when I was in Missouri also was majoring in journalism as I was. He talked about how, for this one story, he put in so much work and effort, only for people to read it one day and then move on to the next thing. He eventually decided to pursue a more God-oriented career.
And some days, I feel that way. I sometimes ask myself, when will this news cycle be over? When can I finally say, alright, I just need to grind it out a few more days, and then I can rest?
But it never ends. Debate after issue after controversy after breaking news after tragedy. Sure, sometimes there’s the good news here and there. But overall, it can get mentally exhausting.
That’s just how the world is. In my beat, politics is always going to be toxic. People will always get angry over someone or something. And when I look at all that, as a man of faith, I know there are far more important things than whatever happens in D.C. or in the Statehouse.
I used to think my friend just wasn’t cut out for journalism. But maybe, he made the right move.
What I like to do when I’m not working
Like every lame person, I like scrolling through my phone mindlessly. I play chess. I’m into board games and video games. I follow the NBA (sorry Ohio, I’m a LeBron hater). I enjoy hanging with friends and partaking in church activities.
Favorite Greater Columbus event or tradition
To my surprise, Ohio has a very lively board gaming scene. Every year, there are multiple board gaming conventions that happen in Columbus, such as the Origins Game Fair.
On a weekly basis, I attend board game meetups when I can, such as the Columbus Area Boardgaming Society up in the Worthington area.
Why journalism matters
Journalism matters because democracy, or the idea of people playing a fundamental role in shaping the policies that impact their lives, is non-existent.
If you step into any statehouse, not just Ohio’s, you’ll notice that besides the lawmakers and their staff, the only people there usually are lobbyists (representing the people who have the money to pay for representation) or really committed activists who have an agenda to push (who more often than not lean toward the political extremes).
So where are you? Shouldn’t you be talking to the people you elected? Shouldn’t you care where your taxpayer money is going? Shouldn’t you care how these laws being created impact you? When’s the last time you’ve been to the statehouse or city council?
Of course, I get it. You have a 9 to 5 job. You have a family to feed. Or maybe, you just really don’t care and, like me, would rather just watch cat videos on the bed.
That’s why there’s a third group of folks you’ll find at the statehouse: reporters. We’re paid to keep watch on your behalf and keep elected officials accountable to you, even if you don’t have the time or will to do so yourself.
What’s still best is that you show up and engage with your government. But if not, journalists are the only thing keeping any semblance of democracy alive.
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