HomeBad Ass AsiansC-SPAN Features Oakland's Chinatown

C-SPAN Features Oakland’s Chinatown

William Gee Wong
William Gee Wong

By Ed Diokno
William Gee Wong, author of Yellow Journalist: Dispatches from Asian America, talked to C-SPAN about the history of Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood and his experience as a Chinese American growing up in the area.

C-SPAN’s Local Content Vehicles (LCVs) made a stop in their “2015 LCV Cities Tour” in Oakland, California, from October 31-November 5 to feature the history and literary life of the community that sits across the Bay from from the better-known San Francisco.

Working with the Comcast Cable local affiliate, the C-SPAN crew visited literary and historic sites where local historians, authors, and civic leaders were interviewed. The history segments air on American History TV on C-SPAN3 and the literary events/non-fiction author segments air on Book TV on C-SPAN2.

As an assistant managing editor of the Oakland Tribune owned by the legendary Robert Maynard, “Bill” Wong played an important role in my growth as a journalist.

It was 1982, the Philippines had deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos and The Philippine News, where I was managing editor, had just won an award for Community Journalism  from the Media Alliance. Bill was one of the award judges.

At the time, transitioning from ethnic community newspapers to mainstream media was rare. There was always that haughty attitude that the ethnic newspaper reporters were not “real” journalists. Nevertheless, Bill knew of my work with the Philippines News, took a chance and hired me as a copy editor even though I lacked the traditional training and background of mainstream journalists.

The Maynard-owned Trib (at the time, the only big-city newspaper owned by a minority) had gained a reputation for good journalism and attracted some of the best writing and editing talent in the country. It won a Pulitzer for its photo coverage of the Loma Prieto earthquake and was a finalist for the Pulitzer for its coverage of the East Bay hills firestorm.

However, the business side of the newspaper business resulted in some poor decisions, most notable of which was to cut suburban coverage. Maynard eventually was forced to sell The Trib to the California-based McClatchey group of newspapers. That led to a topsy-turvy few years when McClatchey sold to Dean Singleton who formed the Alameda News Group.

Neither Bill or I felt comfortable with the Singleton management team and – at different times –  we eventually left the paper. Bill to write his book on Chinatown’s history and I continued my career at the nearby Contra Costa Times.

Eventually, I lost touch with Bill, but I heard he finished his book. I consider him a mentor and owe him a debt for thinking out of the box to hire an untraditional journalist.

Watch Bill Wong’s segment here.

(Note from the editor: I too was greatly influenced by Bill. He encouraged me while I was a young reporter writing for East West, a bilingual Chinese American weekly that has since discontinued publishing. Without Bill, I would not still be a journalist today).

(Ed Diokno writes a blog :Views From The Edge: news and analysis from an Asian American perspective.)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Worth the Time

Must Read

Regular Features


Discover more from AsAmNews

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading