In July, 2017, the Seattle Foundation awarded the IE and the Asian Pacific Islander Community Leadership Foundation (ACLF) a three-year grant for the Advocacy Journalism Fellowship Program. Currently in its inaugural year, this program engages four aspiring community organizers and media leaders per year from API communities and backgrounds who spend a year doing a deep dive into specific immigrant communities in the Seattle area. The IE looks forward to sharing their work with our readers.
Introducing Nick Turner, interviewed by IE fellow John Phoenix Leapai
Nick Turner is a 21-year-old Oregon native, born and raised on Lake Oswego prior to making his way to Seattle, WA, where he is currently a senior at Seattle University. With graduation drawing closer by the day, Nick’s journey as a journalism student has been one with its many twists and turns, diving into deep introspection of his identity as a journalist. Entering college as a declared engineer major, the journey towards his true passion as a writer was uprooted out of the necessity for self-discovery.
Phoenix Leapai: Where do you want your journalism career and experience to take you five to ten years from now?
Nick Tuner: I get a lot of joy from lots of different things in life, but more than almost anything else I love meeting new people and doing new things and seeing new things and just exploring. Like through this fellowship, I’ve met a handful of amazing people who I’m super curious about, and we haven’t even started making content yet. I applied on a whim, like maybe I’ll get this [fellowship], maybe I won’t. And then it turned into thing that I think is going to be awesome.
I’m not the type of person to plan my life out. I sort of take each day as it comes and so far it’s been working for me and I’m only like, I guess, technically, three years into my career as a journalist. Technically, that hasn’t even started yet. I want to live in Japan one day. I want to go to Europe one day. Umm…yeah… I don’t have any like aspirations about working with the New York Times or anything like that. I don’t really care about that. I like local news anyway. If I could make a living working for the North American Post or the Examiner, I’d do that. Yeah, I wouldn’t worry about anything else.
PL: How was that experience growing up as the youngest, in a biracial family, in a neighborhood you would mostly identify as white?
NT: Being the youngest of three kids, I think made me tough. My brother is an electrical engineer, and my sister is a biologist. My dad is an engineer, too. I just wasn’t interested in that… I just didn’t have a mind for science. When I came to college, my mom convinced me that journalism was probably the best choice for me. She went through sort of a similar transition. She started off studying business, and then realized that she loved design and art. And so she went to a design school in Japan and ended up becoming a graphic designer.
I actually showed up to Seattle U declaring engineering as my major. And then half way through the year, I realized how much I hated it. And my mom asked me what I loved doing, and I told her that I love writing. And I didn’t want to become an English major. Or really communication skills, or anything else. And then she found journalism. That idea sounded interesting to me. And… 4 years later, here I am.
PL: How did you go from, “I understand that I enjoyed writing,” to choosing journalism versus choosing another writing major?
NT: Well, I wasn’t really interested in writing novels or teaching English. I wanted to contribute to people around me, my community, I wanted to be involved. I thought journalism was like the, I don’t know, the most level-headed application of something like writing, most practical, and tangible.
Journalism seemed like a way for me to do what I love while helping people. Assuming I help people, I’m still figuring that one out.
PL: I kind of interested in learning a little more about your journey as a writer, and where you want to go with it. At what point did you go, “I actually enjoy this?”
NT: I was a strange kid. Very introverted. Pretty lonely. I didn’t really enjoy high school that much. I was like the cliché outcast, I ate lunch in the library. I love sports, I played soccer, but I didn’t have very many friends on that team. And, it wasn’t even until senior year that I realized that the part of the day that I looked forward to the most was when I got home from school and could just write in my journal. I’ve got like 30 completely filled journals back home, and like five or six more here from the time I came to Seattle U.
So, just, I write a lot. That was like a constant in my life. I never even thought what role it played in my life, until kind of like senior year in high school, when I started thinking about what I wanted to do in college. And that was my mom, my mom made me start thinking about that. It makes me sound crazy, but, one of my best friends throughout junior high, high school was my own journal. My love of writing was strong from the start. I will say that our homework assignments in my English classes, I love doing those. I’d have a six-page paper in like an hour.
PL: Tell me a little bit about your mom and how she helped shape the writing part of your creative writing, and also going from engineering to becoming a journalism major.
NT: It was a specific conversation, I can remember. It was freshmen year, a few weeks into the first quarter of college. I’d only had three classes at that point, and one of them was an engineering like introductory level course. I really hated it. I was taking two other classes and they were both writing, and I loved them. I was enjoying the hell out of them. I was writing about social justice and homelessness for one. And then I was writing about youth education in the other. They were service learning classes, so we had to volunteer at a nearby non-profit while we were taking them.
It was just sort of an internal struggle and then half way through the quarter I went home for a weekend and I told my mom about that, and that was the first time she told me about the whole thing that happened in Japan when she started off as a business major and then she realized that everyday what she looked forward to the most was sketching in her notebook. She would, like, drag her knuckles through classes every day, not enjoying a single second of it. And all she did was look forward to getting home and getting her notepad, any kind of design or artwork, she just loved painting and stuff like that. And then one day she realized that it should be the other way around, where she loves what she does during the day.
She told me about that and she asked me at the end of the day, what do I love doing, and I told her, “I write in my journal.” That was the answer. It sounds all dramatic, now, but it was like a *explosion sound effect* moment for me. Within days, I changed my major into journalism. I haven’t regretted it, even a little bit ever since. Every day I feel sure that journalism is the right choice.
PL: That’s really cool, you know, that kind of sounded, like self-discovery.
NT: Yeah, I don’t know what it is. I feel pretty lucky. I think a lot of people have doubted what they wanted to do with their life, which is natural. And I do too, every day, but, I don’t know…to me journalism is a flexible discipline. Whatever talents and abilities you’re taught to become a journalist, you can use in a lot of different settings and around the world, and that’s exactly what I wanted. I mean, I hope it works out. I hope I find a job somewhere, but, I’ll worry about that in six months.
PL: So, you’re done with school in June?
NT: Yup. As long as I don’t fail any classes.