San Diego Chapter Member: Holly Pablo

Holly Pablo is a senior journalism major at San Diego State. Pablo began her journalism career as a writer, news editor and editor in chief of the Advocate, the student newspaper at Contra Costa College. In San Diego, she reported for the Daily Aztec and has held internships with the U-T San Diego, KUSI News, USA Today College and SDSU’s Media Relations team. Pablo was a reporter with AAJA’s 2011 convention news project, Voices, in Detroit. She will spend the summer reporting for The Bulletin in Bend, Ore., as a 2012 Chips Quinn Scholar. Follow Holly on Twitter (@hollypablo) and check out her site.


Who do you look up to in the news industry as a role model?
When I tell people I’m a journalism student, it is a fairly common assumption that the lifelong dream is to report for a large-circulation publication in a big city. I am in no way opposed to this, but since my exploration into journalism began, I feel much of my passions lie in community reporting. Despite the Advocate being a student paper, we made it a priority to cover hard news in the surrounding Richmond and San Pablo neighborhoods. Digging deep to address lingering societal issues taught me the value of understanding the communities we cover.

I look up to reporters doing extraordinary work at smaller papers and hyperlocal news sites. They’re often considered underdogs and I say they deserve more credit.

Why did you decide to become a journalist?
Much of my childhood was spent reading in libraries. Throughout high school, I filled dozens of journals with personal ramblings and short stories. When I began reporting in college, I was amazed by the opportunity to tell stories for a living. Entering the newsroom and jumping into reporting assignments felt strangely natural. I agree that journalism is a calling.

But journalism showed me life is not black and white. Reporting opened my eyes to the world around me, such as decisions being made by policymakers and the way it affects people. I want to contribute to this free flow of information.

Why is media diversity important to you?
Each person brings his or her own unique set of experiences and perspectives to the table. Newsrooms need people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to reflect the diversity of our communities. When journalists make mistakes or cause offense related to race and ethnicity, for instance, it is arguably because the staff sincerely did not know, rather than malicious intent. But it is our responsibility to ensure fair coverage.

In my experience, I see an imbalance of coverage in college media, which may arguably be a microcosm of the larger industry. For instance, a colleague shared recently that he might possibly be the only African American reporting for the student newspaper. Certain student organizations were receiving minimal coverage, if any, merely because their efforts were lesser known. Having a diverse staff helps address that imbalance. I also believe in the mass media theory that individuals seek stories with which they can relate. In this case, accurately covering the diverse population encourages wide readership.

What do you love most about being Asian American?
Growing up in the United States as a first-generation Filipino American was not without difficulty. I once felt disconnected with my heritage because I could not understand the traditional values my parents held. It did not reflect the American culture I saw on television. But I learned just because it is different does not mean it is wrong. That realization has helped me become a better journalist by acknowledging varying perspectives.

It especially saddens me when people make jokes about others whom English is not their first language. Despite potential language barriers, everyone should be treated with respect. There have been times while reporting that sources tell me they’re not confident with their English and I do my best to make them feel comfortable.

These days, my involvement with AAJA and Asian-Pacific Islander student organizations at San Diego State has also brought me closer to Asian American issues.

Are there any interesting facts/trivia about your past experiences and background?
Despite the fact family members speak Tagalog and Ilocano, I still haven’t learned how to speak the native language. I am always the awkward person who laughs late at jokes because I need to ask for a translation first.

My first encounter with someone not too fond of journalists was at the May Day Protest in San Francisco in 2010, which focused on Arizona’s controversial SB1070. I entered the supporting side’s area to seek comment and a woman came to my face screaming expletives because “all journalists lie.” I suppose we all remember our first time.

Barely graduated from high school with the minimum requirements. Discovering journalism in college saved me from a life of self-destruction.

Learn more about other AAJA members profiled for AAPI Month.