Tag Archives: Journalism

Putting My Journalism Career Into Perspective

A Chinese woman with black medium-length hair sits on a plastic round bubble chair with pillows. She's wearing a flower bomber jacket and burgundy pants. The background has pink polka dots and shows a giant picture of Bliss skin care.

#DailyWings: “It takes courage to rest and play in a culture where exhaustion is seen as a status symbol.” — Brené Brown

Wow. It feels so surreal to be writing for my blog again, but here I am.

My life is vastly different now than it was a year ago. I started a new position as a video producer at HuffPost back in October — my first full-time journalism job ever — so a lot has shifted over the last few months. I’m learning an entirely new skill set, I’m navigating a different company culture, and I’m working harder than ever before. I have to pinch myself every day to remember that all of this is real.

Although I have been extremely busy, the reason for my lack of blogging goes beyond just that. For the better half of two years, I’ve been avoiding any sort of what I’d like to call personal writing (as opposed to journalism or professional writing). That includes writing in my daily journal, my memoir and my blog. I daydream about personal writing every single day, but every time I sit down and try to write something, I feel so guilty for doing something that’s not related to work — or the pressure to write something perfect (even if it is for myself) is so great that I end up not writing anything at all.

I am paralyzed by the blank page, but even more so, I’m paralyzed by the thought of confronting myself as well as all of the events and incremental moments that have led me to where I am now.

It took me more than two years to find a journalism job. During those months, I took up an editing gig at Planned Parenthood Federation of America and freelanced on the side. Even though I didn’t talk much about Planned Parenthood on social media, the year and a half I spent there was transformative. I am forever grateful for the people I met, many of whom remain close friends of mine. They are some of the kindest, bravest, and most genuine people in my life. They inspired me to be a better editor, a better writer, a better activist, and a better person. They gave me courage and taught me how to stand up for myself, and they supported me in being myself — just as I am.

A young Chinese woman with a trach tube is wearing a black moto jacket, red lipstick, and silver hoop earrings. She's holding a piece of paper up that says: "I BELIEVE DR. BLASEY FORD" with the hashtag #BELIEVESURVIVORS at the bottom. She's outside, standing in front of a glass window.

While I was at Planned Parenthood, I continued to write stories for The New York Times, Teen Vogue, Bustle, and others. I wrote about mental health in Asian American communities, the impact of #MeToo on teenagers, the much-needed cure for ableism, and more. Looking back, I don’t know how I managed to work a full-time job and keep up a separate journalism career while also speaking at conferences, schools, etc. I’m extremely proud of the work I did during that time period — but the truth is that it wasn’t as easy as I’ve let on.

I don’t want to be the kind of person who puts up a front and only shares the accomplishments and the good moments without also sharing some of the pain and hardship. In an online world where we’re inundated with social media filters, this is my attempt at being more open and vulnerable. It’s also important for me to acknowledge that I am extremely privileged for being able to work and live my dream here in New York. But there needs to be space for appreciating all the good things in life while also wanting to strive for something better. I told a friend once that I sometimes worry about not being grateful enough for what this city has given me, both the good and the bad. She shook her head. You don’t owe the city anything, she said. Everything you’re feeling is valid.

Before I landed my current position, I was a freelance writer who covered stories about gender, politics, disability and culture — but mainly disability. My audience grew, and I started receiving requests to join panels, speak on podcasts, and teach reporting/journalism career workshops at the university and professional level. I discovered the world of public speaking. Somehow, I’d been given this incredible platform to share my perspectives, and I wanted to use these opportunities for good.

At some point, I developed impostor syndrome and started experiencing a lot of anxiety, especially whenever I had to speak in front of a crowd. Who was I to tell other reporters how to do their job? What expectations did journalism students have of me, and what if I failed miserably to meet them? What if I messed up and ended up speaking for a community instead of lifting it up? What if I gave a terrible presentation or couldn’t answer any questions from the audience, and the institution hosting me decided they’d made a mistake and wanted a refund? It’s taken a while for me to build enough confidence and trust in myself.

A Chinese woman with a trach tube is speaking on a panel about her journalism career with four other women. She's in front of a presentation titled, "How To Kill It As A Freelancer," one of many during the Her Campus Conference of 2018. Several audience members are sitting in the foreground.

At the same time, I was applying for dozens of positions that would pay me to be a reporter full-time, and I received dozens of rejections back. It was frustrating because I seemed to be qualified enough to get paid for speaking on panels, teaching classes, and serving as an expert in my field — and yet, for a long time, it apparently wasn’t enough to land an actual job and advance in my journalism career.

A lot of roles just weren’t the right fit. But I also received so many no’s for all the wrong reasons. For many jobs, I later discovered that other people — who were usually white and had less experience — had received the offers. And during one job interview, the employer asked if the winter weather made it hard for me to work, implying that my disability affected me on the job. (It doesn’t.) That’s the kind of ableism that people with disabilities deal with on a daily basis.

Finally, being a journalist with a somewhat visible platform was (and still is) just hard in general. Here are a few reasons why, in no particular order:

1) Having to deal with an ableist troll or two is fine, even mildly amusing, but dealing with swarms of them all at once is something else.

2) A 2017 story of mine that was incredibly well-received was, in fact, the silver lining of a traumatizing experience that hundreds of freelancers endure every day: My editor for that story ghosted me right after the story was published and refused to pay me for months.

3) Receiving emails from people who say they love my writing and look up to me as a disability activist is amazing, but it makes me feel like I always need to be positive and have my sh*t together.

Even now, I’m learning a lot and working through all of the kinks that come with a new job, even if it’s one that I absolutely love. I’ve realized that being a perfectionist is impossible when you’re a journalist. It’s important to be kind to ourselves and understand that we’re all just doing the best we can to survive in this industry. If we’re willing to continue telling our stories, and if we’re choosing to be journalists despite all of challenges that are unique to our field, that means something. It matters.

So to all of the journalists and creators out there who are struggling, thriving, or both, I see you. We’re in this together.

My Year In Journalism: Where I Published (And Appeared) In 2017

AmpLit Fest, writing festival, panel, journalism

#DailyWings: “Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
–Robert Collier

Even though this blog post is abominably late…um, Happy New Year, everyone! January started off quite zen for me, but things quickly became a roller coaster as I took on more journalism and work projects than I’d planned to. (Already broke a New Year’s resolution, y’all.) This year, I hope to take better care of myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. That means reading novels for fun, eating lots of cheese, putting on more evening face masks, and not feeling guilty for spending an afternoon doing nothing — because sometimes, that’s exactly what we need.
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How To Survive Columbia Journalism School: A Non-Exhaustive Guide

Wendy

#DailyWings: “I’m a story-teller. I tell stories. In some stories, I am the story. But the story transcends me. How? Hear my stories.” Guy at your J-school

Happy November! It’s taken me a while, but I’ve finally finished putting together this blog post about my experiences at Columbia Journalism School (as promised), along with several nuggets of advice for prospective students — brought to you by the Class of 2016. :)

For those of you who might be new to my blog, I’ve talked about my journey to New York City in previous posts. I often tell people that going to graduate school for journalism was one of the best things I’ve ever done, even though it was also one of the most difficult. I had already obtained a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is considered an excellent program and taught me the fundamentals of professional writing, editing and reporting. Columbia Journalism School was on a whole other level — basically UNC’s j-school on steroids.
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Why I Stopped Blogging For Two Years

journalism, New York Times, why I stopped blogging

#DailyWings: “Remember, you have been criticizing yourself for years and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and seeing what happens.”
-Louise L. Hay

Hi everyone. It’s taken a long time for me to come back to this website and have the courage to hit “publish” on this blog post. I’ve missed writing here. A lot has happened since I last blogged in 2015, and I feel like I owe you all — my readers — an explanation for why I stopped blogging, which was once a sacred part of my life as a writer.

Those of you who’ve been around for a while know that I started a blog for the first time on Blogspot in January 2010. It was my safe haven for many years, with a short break in the middle so that I could migrate to a new location — this website. Back then, I didn’t know things like SEO existed that could drive or inform my editorial content. My blog was simply a creative outlet for me to share my writing journey and my hobbies outside of journalism with the outside world. That was it.
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The Columbia Journo Diaries: Journalism Bootcamp, My First 2 Weeks in NYC

Columbia Journalism School

#DailyWings“One belongs to New York instantly. One belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” -Tom Wolfe

The Columbia Journo Diaries is a series on my blog where I share my accounts of what it’s like to be a journalism master’s student at Columbia University in the City of New York during a time when the media landscape is relying on digital innovation to survive. 

It’s Friday night, and I’m raising a solo cup filled with red wine in my right hand. Someone sitting a few feet away whistles to get everyone’s attention.

“We made it through the first two weeks! Cheers!”

“Cheers!” I place the cup between my lips. The wine warms me from head to toe.

It’s the first night I’ve actually gone out with friends – mainly, other journalism students at Columbia who decided it would be a good idea to celebrate the end of our second week of reporting bootcamp. We have a picnic set up in Riverside Park right by the Henry Hudson Parkway, barely five minutes away from my apartment. I’ve been living here since the end of July, and not once did I notice before how beautiful the sun is when it sets over the skyline. I remind myself to do this more often. No matter how stressful journalism school gets or how many times you fail, I say to myself, never forget to appreciate what’s right in front of you.
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I’m Moving to New York City to Live (Not Chase) My Dreams

#DailyWings: “You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” -William Faulkner

Happy June, writers and friends! Wow, has it really been a month (and some change) since my last blog post? A part of me is appalled that I took a month-long hiatus from writing, but the other part of me wants to remind myself that there is a very good reason why I haven’t been around.

Four days ago, I was finally able to make an announcement that I’ve been waiting to make for months. It’s the kind of announcement that is usually made right after a college graduation, when people are moving to new places, taking on summer internships and full-time jobs, and traveling to other countries. Honestly, it was hard for me to keep blogging without being able to share this announcement with you; I felt like keeping it inside was more difficult than not blogging at all.

Thankfully, I’m finally in a good place both emotionally and professionally now where I can share this publicly with you and my friends here on social media.
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Charlie Hebdo and Journalism in the Marketplace of Ideas

#DailyWings: “I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” –Eduardo Galeano

I was at work when I learned about what had happened in Paris on January 7. At the office, we have about seven or eight television screens, all of which display breaking news from CNN or sports on a daily basis. I walked past the largest TV during lunch, a napkin and utensils in my hand, when I saw the headline about terrorists on the loose in Paris. People were wounded, even dead.

Why would anyone want to attack the French?” was my initial reaction. Admittedly, I don’t know much about France outside of the stereotypes revealed to me through movies and other media growing up, and unfortunately I don’t follow French news the way I follow Chinese, American and UK news. Even with the underlying knowledge that French people aren’t all alike, I’d always viewed them as being romantic, chic and peaceful foodies.

It wasn’t until later that I learned three masked individuals — later discovered to be Islamists — had attacked the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical Parisian weekly newspaper known for publishing crude, controversial material (mainly about religion and politics). The attacks didn’t stop there. Two days later, terrorists related to the first incident attacked people in a supermarket where many Jewish Parisians live and congregate.
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Meeting Khaled Hosseini: “And The Mountains Echoed” Book Tour (and My 21st Birthday + The Great Flood of 2013!)

#DailyWings: “When I was a child my mother said to me, ‘If you become a soldier, you’ll be a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the pope.’ Instead, I became a painter and wound up as Picasso.” -Pablo Picasso

A couple weeks ago, I read John Green‘s “The Fault in Our Stars,” one of the best Young Adult novels I’ve read in a long time. (If you haven’t done so already, I highly encourage you to read one or all of John’s books and/or check out the awesome vlogbrothers, a YouTube video project he coordinates with his brother Hank.) One of the book’s subplots involves the characters traveling to Amsterdam to meet the writer of their favorite book in person.After I finished reading the book, I Skyped my boyfriend — who shares my passion for good literature and was the one who introduced me to John’s work — and said to him, “Wouldn’t it be so cool if we could just meet our favorite authors like Augustus and Hazel do?”
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Observations of an Editorial Intern: Here’s to Punchy Ledes (& Other Farewell Stories)

#DailyWings: “We live not only in a world of thoughts, but also in a world of things. Words without experience are meaningless.” -Vladimir Nabokov

This post is a part of my blog series, “Observations of an Editorial Intern” (as inspired by the CAFME Summer Intern Diaries). This series focuses on my experiences of interning as a journalism student for a news publication. Any viewpoints expressed on my blog are not reflective of the publication I work for. 

This semester, I completed an editorial internship at The WEEKLY, the town newspaper published by Chapel Hill Magazine.

Last Monday, I wrapped up my last few assignments for The WEEKLY and concluded the spring editorial internship. Walking out of that office for my last time this semester was bittersweet, as the end of most valuable experiences — ones that are both challenging and rewarding — tend to be. 

I like to think of the past — in this case, the “past” few months — as one huge timeline. Placing a finger at any point on the timeline, I remember where I was in the internship process at that point and how much there was still ahead of me. 
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Observations of an Editorial Intern: On Being Deadline-Driven

#DailyWings: “Life is so constructed, that the event does not, cannot, will not, match the expectation.” -Charlotte Brontë, Villette

This post is a part of my blog series, “Observations of an Editorial Intern” (as inspired by the CAFME Summer Intern Diaries). This series focuses on my experiences of interning as a journalism student for a news publication. Any viewpoints expressed on my blog are not reflective of the publication I work for. 

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It’s been a while since I updated my blog series for this semester, Observations of an Editorial Intern. Juggling classes, multiple school organizations and an editorial internship has been both a challenge and a rewarding experience. I’ve become much more attentive to news values, email communication, deadlines and interviewing tactics; at the same time, I am still learning new things every week. 

For anyone who is hoping to gain a better sense of a particular field, there is a lot of value in learning from experts — essentially, others who have been working in the industry for much longer. You can ask them about trends they’ve seen over the years, impact on the public and the micro-level details of working in that field on a daily basis. These people can include long-term employees, graduates who have gotten their feet through the door and are navigating the waters, even your mentors or bosses. 

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