APA Spotlight is a weekly interview of Asian Pacific Islander Americans (APIA) community leaders. It is a spotlight on individuals who have dedicated their careers to issues surrounding the APIA community with the goal of bringing much deserved recognition to their work and cause(s).
Doris Truong is a multiplatform editor at The Washington Post, where she was part of its 2010 “Top Secret America” team. She formerly supervised the copy editing of 13 weekly suburban sections and also worked on The Post’s National desk, where she helped with the Abramoff investigative reporting package that won the 2006 Pulitzer. A graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism, Truong is 2011-12 national president of the Asian American Journalists Association. She is a Maynard Media Academy alumna, has been a guest faculty member at the Poynter Institute and has presented to multiple journalism groups.
Founded in 1981, the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is a non-profit professional and educational organization with more than 1,400 members today. AAJA serves Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by encouraging young people to consider journalism as a career, developing managers in the media industry, and promoting fair and accurate news coverage.
AAJA uses the term “Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders” to embrace all Americans–both citizens and residents — who self-identify with one or more of the three dozen nationalities and ethnic groups in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and the Pacific Islands. We use this term to refer to our communities at large, as well as to our membership which includes representatives from all these regions.
AAJA is committed to diversity in order to incorporate different viewpoints into newsrooms across the country. AAJA is an alliance partner in UNITY Journalists of Color, along with the Native American Journalists Association, National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and National Association of Black Journalists.
What is the mission statement of your life?
Bring information to the people so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their communities.
How did you end up doing what you’re doing?
My 10th-grade English teacher told me that if I didn’t like what I was seeing in our high school paper, I could best effect changes by becoming a part of the staff. I applied to be a reporter in my junior year, gradually learned to do every job in the production process — including ad sales — and was hooked. I attended the Missouri School of Journalism, through which I became familiar with the Asian American Journalists Association. Mentors I found through the Missouri alumni network and in AAJA have helped me become the journalist I am today.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life, whom would you like to see play the lead role as you?
A few friends have pointed out similarities between the “Gilmore Girls” character of Paris Geller, whom you might remember was her college paper’s editor. But as much as I admire Liza Weil’s characterization, I’d rather have Keiko Agena (Lane on “Gilmore”) take on the role of Doris.
How can people find out more about your organization or get involved?
Besides AAJA.org, which offers resources such as a style guide to covering Asian America, the Asian American Journalists Association has 21 chapters — 20 in the United States and one in Asia. We have 1,500 members who range from students (we have one 10-year-old member!) to veterans who have been with the organization since its founding 30 years ago.
Hundreds of our members are active on Twitter, so it’s easy to connect with someone online if you don’t get a chance to attend local/regional AAJA events.
The best time to get involved with AAJA is during our national convention. This year, our theme is “Time to Engage,” and from August 10 to 13, we’ll be engaged in the 3 D’s: Digital. Diversity. Detroit.
Our convention focuses on skills-building to keep our members at the forefront of their newsrooms, and it’s a fantastic opportunity for networking. We’re excited to be reaching out to Arab Americans, a population well represented in the Detroit area. Also, we think the journalism industry can learn from the re-invigoration of Motor City automakers, which faced a need to reinvent similar to what newsrooms are undergoing today.
Anyone interested in AAJA can contact me directly: aajadoris[at]yahoo.com.
If you had a crystal ball, what do you see for the future of the Asian Pacific Islander American community?
I would love for APIA faces to be prominent in all of America’s newsrooms and especially on broadcast network news. My association is doing a fundraiser to highlight 43 Men of AAJA, with the top 12 vote-getters being featured in a 2012 calendar. This isn’t about beefcake — it’s about showing the public that talented Asian Americans work in all sectors of broadcast news. Asian American men, in particular, continue to be under-represented as broadcasters, and this calendar is a way to bring attention to the issue while having a little fun. (You can vote as many times as you like for only $1 a vote: http://bit.ly/aaja2012mob.)
Bonus Question: What advice do you have for young professionals? Would you give different advice for young Asian Pacific Islander American professionals?
If you’re going into journalism, it’s important to have broad-based knowledge of current events as well as a good grasp of history. Also, learn to do as much as you can yourself: shooting photos, editing video, recording audio. In the end, the storytelling is paramount, but someone who can do everything and do it well will be much more valuable in a 21st-century newsroom.
From young APIAs, I get questions about how one can get parental support because many families still consider medicine, engineering and law to be the pinnacle professions. If you demonstrate a commitment to the field of journalism — and point to the many success stories among members of AAJA — you’ll help reassure your family that as a journalist, you’re going to be a solid contributor to society while making a comfortable living.
Bonus Question: What are your comfort foods and what memories do you have associated with them?
My parents owned a Chinese restaurant, so I love down-home Cantonese cuisine. Despite a childhood steeped in wonderful meals prepared by my dad, I’m much more likely to reach for a noodle soup — pho or a spicy miso ramen (especially when I’m on the West Coast) — than a rice-based dish.
Bonus Question: What’s your guilty pleasure?
With a doubt: bacon! I love it!
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[Photo courtesy of Hyungwon Kang]