When Peter Bhatia was named executive editor of the Oregonian in 2010, he became the first South Asian to run a major daily newspaper in the United States. Peter, a Pullman, Wash. native, has worked for more than three decades in newsrooms, from San Francisco to York, Pa. He joined the Oregonian in 1993 as its managing editor. In 2008, Editor & Publisher Magazine chose Peter and former Oregonian executive editor Sandy Rowe as Editors of the Year, noting the newspaper had won five Pulitzer Prizes under their leadership. AAJA awarded him with a Pioneer in Journalism Award in 2004, and he was inducted into the South Asian Journalists Association‘s Hall of Fame in 2007.
What’s your life motto?
Always do what’s right.
How did you get involved with AAJA? How was it important to you throughout your career?
I believe in the causes AAJA has stood behind, so it was natural for me to join and participate, given my South Asian heritage. It also has helped me build wonderful connections to other journalists that have enriched and informed my years in journalism. For that I am very grateful.
Why did you decide to become a journalist?
I “published” my first newspaper when I was 12. Well, my dad ran it off on a ditto machine, if anyone else is old enough to remember those. I worked on my high school and college papers. I still thought about law and business in college, but when a reporting offer came, I jumped at it because of the opportunity to tell stories and make a difference. And, despite the naysayers, we are still telling stories and making a difference.
Why is media diversity important to you?
Our journalism must represent as best we can the broadest swath possible of society. Without diverse staffs, we can’t hope to understand or appreciate all the communities that make up the larger community. It is a continuing source of frustration and disappointment that journalism hasn’t done better.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming journalists?
Don’t give up on journalism. While how it is delivered will continue to evolve, the importance of what we do will not. Make sure you have the skills to thrive in a digital world. Hard work and dedication will never go out of style.
Learn more about other AAJA members profiled for AAPI Month.