By Akemi Tamanaha, Associate Editor
Report for America is placing seven journalists in local newsrooms across the country to increase coverage of Asian American communities.
One reporter, Theodora Yu, has already begun work through the organization’s program, which funds one to two years of reporting on under-covered issues and communities. Yu applied and was placed in June 2019 at The Sacramento Bee, where her job is solely to cover the Asian American community.
“I think Report for America really encourages reporters to dig deep into their beat,” Yu told AsAmNews.
When she arrived in Sacramento, Yu said she was struck by the diversity of the Sacramento AAPI community. Since June, she has covered a wide range of Asian American socio-political issues, including the deportation of Cambodian Americans, the efforts to ensure an accurate count of Asians in the 2020 census, and the access to resources for first-generation AAPI college students.
One of the issues Yu is particularly passionate about is mental health. She recalled one story she wrote about culturally competent programs created to assist elderly Southeast Asian Americans who came over during or after the Vietnam War in dealing with their trauma.
To Yu, it is important not just to cover the issues the AAPI community is facing: stories of “resilience,” she says, deserve the same coverage. While at The Sacramento Bee, she’s also covered community achievements and written features on successful AAPI owned businesses.
“I think a lot of community members would like to see coverage about how the Asian American community has grown,” Yu said. “For example, those who are now really successful, educated are [coming] back to uplift their community.”
Yu’s path in journalism began while she was pursuing her bachelor’s degree in sociology at the University of Hong Kong. She said she began to think about what she wanted to do after she graduated and decided to try journalism because she liked to “write and talk to people.”
In 2014, Yu worked as a journalism intern while she continued her undergraduate studies. She helped cover the Hong Kong Umbrella Movement, a 79-day protest that asked for true universal suffrage.
“I think that experience really affirmed my decision to be a journalist,” Yu said. “Because I really wanted to tell stories about home, about people that I care about.”
Yu worked at a local paper in Hong Kong for two years. Out of a desire to learn more about investigative journalism, she decided to attend graduate school for journalism from 2018 to 2019 at Columbia University.
It was there that Yu met recruiters from Report for America. Her previous experience at a local newspaper in Hong Kong made a job with the organization, which places journalists in local newsrooms across the country every year, a good fit.
“I really enjoyed working for local newsrooms,” Yu said.
Report for America’s goal is to increase and improve coverage of specific communities across the United States. The organization will continue to place journalists in local newsrooms to cover AAPI communities.
Yu, who is from Hong Kong and not Asian American herself, said she believes that hiring more Asian American journalists will help improve coverage.
“[Asian American] reporters could connect more and understand the struggles and issues that community members are facing,” Yu said. “With that compassion and empathy, I’m sure that will lead to really great reporting.”
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