Michelle Ye Hee Lee covers Maricopa County government and politics for the Arizona Republic. Michelle was an active AAJA student member in Atlanta and is now a chapter board member in Arizona. She was pivotal in organizing Arizona State University’s inaugural student AAJA group.
Who do you look up to or are inspired by in the news industry?
The people I look up to the most are people I have learned and continue to learn from, such as my mentors and reporters and editors at my job or at previous internships. For example, my current editor at the Arizona Republic, Pat Flannery, inspires me every day to be a better reporter. He has covered everything from business to state government and is the go-to person in our newsroom for reporters who are fighting for public records. I constantly look up to people like him who have dedicated their lives to journalism and to helping others become better journalists.
What inspired you to become a journalist?
I’ve never been able to answer this question succinctly. It’s not the most glamorous job, and my friends who went into investment banking have starting salaries that I’ll never make even after 30 years in this business. But I value what we add to society – as reporters, writers, thinkers, analysts, watchdogs, public servants, storytellers. I recognize it’s a changing industry, and want to be a part of the generation that shapes what journalism will be with new technology and reporting tools.
Why is media diversity important to you?
I believe a well-rounded journalist is one who can understand and appreciate different opinions and cultures. I believe a newsroom with journalists of various ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, cultural backgrounds and sexual orientations is key to balanced, well-rounded coverage of the news.
How has being Asian American helped you as a journalist?
I was born in Korea, grew up in Guam, moved to the States and got naturalized. Those experiences shaped who I am today, a Korean American who appreciates her Korean roots and her American culture. As a journalist, my background helps me appreciate and accept new ideas, surroundings and customs, wherever I am, whoever I meet.
Learn more about other AAJA members profiled for AAPI Month.