Julie Chen’s deeply personal story about getting plastic surgery to advance her news career is heartbreaking but inspiring


NOTE: I have no idea why I saved this as a draft and never published it live, but here ’tis.

My friend Emil Guillermo has a solid piece about Chen’s surgery that chides Chen for selling out to “the man” and getting the surgery.

I know a lot of people think that way, but I’m not so sure it’s as easy as that, especially if you were in the news field almost two decades ago.

It’s easy for us to stand in judgement today, but imagine if you really had the most powerful agent in the industry agreeing with the dumbass news director from a small-market station, and telling you you need surgery if you want to climb the markets and get to New York as a network anchor.

I applaud Chen for going through such tribulations early in her career, and even more so for going public with it all today.

San Francisco’s Hokubei Mainichi the latest Japanese community newspaper to shut down

The home page for the Hokubei Mainichi, the bilingual newspaper for the Japanese community, which announced it

Denver’s Japanese community knew it was coming: Even before the current angst and pain that newspapers in general are feeling thanks to declining circulation and dire economic times, the city’s Japanese newspaper, the Rocky Mountain Jiho, shut down. Its owners, Eiichi and Yoriko Imada, had been subsidizing the weekly newspaper, which had one or two pages of news and features in English followed by a handful of pages of local and international news in Japanese, out of their own pockets for years. The advertising wasn’t paying for the publication. But the paper had been part of the community for decades (they bought it from its previous owner in the 1980s), so they couldn’t afford to keep it running anymore.

It was the Imadas who got me to write a weekly column about life from a Japanese American perspective on a volunteer basis, and suggested the name “Nikkei View.” I started posting the columns online and I’ve never stopped, eventually turning the column into a Web site that covered not just JA, but also Asian American Pacific Islander issues.

Meanwhile, the Jiho ran out of money, time and energy. That was several years ago.

Now, even older, more established community newspapers — which are among the “vernacular press,” or foreign language media that serve immigrant communities throughout the U.S. — in areas with Japanese populations are starting to shut down. The San Francisco area has shockingly lost both its Japanese papers in recent months.

The Nichi Bei Times was closed two months ago, and the Hokubei Mainichi just announced its imminent closure in October, but finally ceased publication and cleaned out its offices this week. Continue reading

Why it’s important for me to be part of AAJA and in the company of Asian American journalists

Tak Toyoshima, creator of Secret Asian Man, and Jeff Yang, one of the editors of "Secret Identities," at the 2009 AAJA Convention in Boston.
Tak Toyoshima, creator of “Secret Asian Man,” and Jeff Yang, one of the editors of the recently-published book “Secret Identities,” sign copies at the 2009 AAJA Convention in Boston.

“Where are you from?” “So, where are YOU from?” “Hi, where’re you from?”

I was in Boston a couple of weeks ago, at a convention where everyone asked each other “Where are you from?” and no one got offended. It cracked me up, hearing the question over and over.

Let me explain, for my non-Asian readers: Just about every Asian American I know – seriously – has been asked this question sometime (or many times) in their life. It’s often preceded by a variation of the statement, “You speak English so well… where are you from?” And once we answer “California,” or “Denver,” it’s often followed by a variation of “No, you know what I mean, where were you born?” Which might be followed, after we answer “California” or “New York City,” by “No, where’s your FAMILY from?”

That’s when we can cut off the silliness and get to the point: “Are you asking what’s my ethnic heritage?”

I just don’t see European Americans having this conversation, unless they have, say, a British or French or German accent. People assume Asian Americans are foreigners even if we “speak English so well” because of the way we look.

Anyway, I heard the “where are you from?” question dozens of times and we all answered eagerly without getting defensive. It’s because the ones asking were also AAPI, and we really did want to know where each other was from. We were at the annual convention of the Asian American Journalists Association, a non-profit professional organization that supports Asian Americans in the media.

And after spending several days in Boston with the AAJA, I have hope for journalism. Continue reading

The Rocky Mountain News’ closure gives me pause

The final front page of the Rocky Mountain News, Feb. 27, 2009We all live our lives way too fast. We rush to work, work at a fast clip, rush home and barely get a chance to chill out before, as a wimpy ’70s singer-songwriter once crooned, “we get up and do it again.”

So the death of the Rocky Mountain News, like the death of a close friend or family member, has given me pause. It’s making me reflect a bit on my own mortality: as a news junkie, journalist, writer, Internet geek and human being.

First of all, I feel terrible about the Rocky’s closing. I feel worse — a lot worse — than I thought I’d feel. It’s a business decision. But it affects hundreds of people, many of whom I know. In fact, I’ve known some of the staff at the Rocky for almost 30 years. In between jobs, I’ve written more freelance stories for the Rocky than for The Denver Post, the newspaper that’s left standing in Denver.

Now I work for MediaNews Group Interactive, the online operation of the Denver Post’s parent company. People — especially bloggers who cover the media — like to throw barbs at MediaNews and its owner, Denver-based Dean Singleton because he buys up newspapers and usually trims their operations to make them more profitable. “More profitable” of course is a relative term these days. Maybe we should settle for “less unprofitable” in these terrible economic times.
Continue reading

Farewell to the Rocky Mountain News

I know I haven’t been writing much on the blog — I have a bunch of things stacked up, and I’m always babbling in small bits on Twitter and Facebook.

But I needed to embed this video from the Rocky Mountain News, which is shutting down today. The Rocky’s staff has been brave and unfliching in its coverage of the closing, which was first announced in December as a possibility if no one buys it. No one bought it. I have many friends there, and have written a lot of freelance articles for the Rocky, when I wasn’t working for the competition, The Denver Post, or in my current position, working for the Post’s owners, MediaNews Group.

The Rocky put this video on its home page today. It’s a well-done piece of work (even though at 21 minutes it’s incredibly long for an online news video). Although today’s edition is rife with self-focused emotion (I guess understandingly), this tribute is worth viewing. I doubt the local TV stations could do better:

Final Edition from Matthew Roberts on Vimeo.