You know, I didn’t want this job. Well, three and a half years ago that was true. My predecessor planned to leave for a new adventure and the position opened up. She suggested I apply — a fair assumption since I served as the Assistant Editor at the time. But, boy, did this job look daunting from that point of view. My editor looked pretty beat — weary from the deadlines, pressure and need for fresh revenue. She served as the main administrator, editor in chief and executive director of a non-profit — all in one tidy little role. So, nope, I wasn’t looking to apply. It wasn’t until several days later I began to consider why I didn’t pursue it. I had to dig deep and be more honest with myself than I ever wanted to be: I was insecure whether I could weather the storms that would surely come my way in this leadership role. But all of my training, sacrifice and hard work had led to this. When I made the leap to pursue it and accept the role — it was just that — a leap. I wasn’t sure where I’d land, but courage helped me understand I’d figure it out along the way. How little I knew then what I was getting myself into. But, then again, how little I knew of the inspiration and growth I’d find in myself.
There are moments I think community news should be outlawed — really — because the hours and pressure is downright illegal. Add the current economic climate and it’s not easy being a minority journalist nowadays. Journalists of color are the first to fade from our newsrooms across the country, threatening to eliminate our representation and voice, sacrificing democracy itself. Check out Collin Tong’s article in this issue for more. Then imagine a community newspaper like the IE. That is a non-profit. For APIs. In a declining economy. In a wary and scrutinized media industry. It’s definitely a time to be creative and dig deep.
Community journalists are a different breed of people and professionals. They’re advocates for their community, but must stay objective enough to see a wider picture. They hob-nob with community leaders, but must find the balance in these relationships so as not to jeopardize their work. And, they must find a way to sustain their operations in uncertain economic times when the media landscape is quickly vanishing or just as quickly, evolving.
Managing a community newspaper means also having the courage to cover issues within the community that can make us uncomfortable. Just as a person — you have to face the truth about yourself before you can grow. But not all agree — and I’ve been threatened a few times by them. Hey, it’s all a part of this gig.
Of course, ethnic newspapers are here to support and celebrate progress and raise awareness of issues we need support for. That’s easy. The tough part is how to reveal the dirtier but truthful elements we’d rather not showcase; such as criminal behavior or neglectful practices. Understandably, some people feel it’ll portray the community in a less than pleasant light in a time it is still struggling to be respected and embraced. And on the flip side, determining how to balance and lend credit to stories inspired by those who support the newspaper through advertising, donations, attending events, etc.
But it is not my goal for the IE to be a “yearbook” in every issue — publishing page after page the photos of my friends or colleagues who attend events or receive another award — albeit well-deserved. If we’re a voice of a community — then it’s crying out for more. And it’s our duty to hear that and act.
Using our individual talents to serve a larger purpose that can have a positive impact — whether on one person or many — seems to be the rallying call of many of our community members. In this issue, we feature a Vietnamese American real estate agent who saw opportunity in empty foreclosed homes and filled those homes with hope. Today her Glow Center offers temporary housing for domestic violence survivors. In another feature, community leaders band together to advocate on behalf of our neighborhood’s elderly, children, and residents whose safety is threatened by a proposed streetcar route. And in an op-ed, we highlight two community champions leading efforts to take back our streets, not giving into apathy or fear of retaliation. All of these people found a courageous way to give back and fulfill a mission serving a larger purpose — regardless of the risks or criticism that lay ahead, or self-interest that could hold them back. We applaud them for their courage in doing so — inspiring warriors in all of us.