My mother and I were sitting at the kitchen table. The first semester of college was almost over and I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. She tried to get me to list my talents. I ventured that I might be a decent writer.
Mom smiled, sighed, and said; “Then, would you do something for me?”
“Take a journalism class.”
That request made no sense to me. Mom was born and raised in China, a daughter of royalty, in a time when women did not have careers. It was also a time when men in China could have more than one wife at the same time. Despite that, my grandfather was very supportive of all his daughters, making sure they were educated and encouraged their independence. So Mom had an older half sister, the daughter of wife number one. She had married, moved to Japan and became a journalist. Mom thought that was wonderful. She studied writing and dreamed she might someday have that career too.
But it wasn’t to be for my mother. Instead, she married, came to the United States, and became a home maker and mother.
I was the one of her six children who was most like her, so I was willing to try. Because I hadn’t worked on my high school newspaper and had never taken a single journalism class, my counselor started me in the college news bureau where I would work one-on-one with the journalism professor. He assigned me a story on campus and told me to try writing a news story and he’d critique it.
It was a simple story about a musical production on campus. I went to cover it, did interviews, tried to cover the who, what, where, when and how, wrote the story and turned it in. My professor was surprised. He thought my writing was good enough that my story was sent to the local newspaper and I got my very first by-line.
I was in love! For the next couple years, I wrote and learned from journalists on that daily paper, while also joining the campus newspaper. I learned to cover news, features, investigative pieces.
Most important, I learned the value of newspapers. We let people know what was happening in the country, the state, their city, their politicians, their community, their neighborhood. We wrote stories that uncovered wrong doing, stories that introduced important programs, wrote stories about interesting people, wrote stories that made readers angry and stories that made them cry.
I carried those lessons into my long career in broadcasting. Now that I am part of the Chicago Sun-Times, I feel I’ve come back to the way I started in journalism. Plus, the skills I developed in broadcasting allow me to create the video series, “Food We Love,” for Sun-Times website.
These days, both the newspaper and the website are valuable to you. Since more and more people use the web, understand that you will get the peerless political coverage of Lynn Sweet and Fran Spielman and all our other political reporters at Chicago Sun-Times.com. The work of our investigative reporters is there, too. Many people ask for some positive news once in awhile and we are working to provide that with stories by Ji Suk Yi and others.
I have not talked about this publicly before, but here it is: I put some of my own money into purchasing the Sun-Times because I believe in the people working here. I also believe in you and that you deserve a voice.
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