Hawai’i chapter member: Rindraty Celes Limtiaco

Photo by Masako Watanabe/Pacific Daily News

Rindraty Celes Limtiaco is president and publisher of the Pacific Daily News on Guam, which is a Gannett newspaper. She has been publisher since 2007 and before that was the Executive Editor for eight years. She is four-time recipient of Gannett’s President Ring, which recognizes outstanding achievement in her field. Under her watch as executive editor, her newsroom was awarded APME’s Robert G. McGruder Award for Diversity Leadership in 2006. She is active in civic organizations in her community and is a co-founder of Autism Community Together, a local support group for families with children who have autism.

Q&A

What’s your life motto?
We are the product of our choices. When you recognize that, you realize that there are no limits to what you can accomplish.

What do you wish you had known about journalism?
That it could be so addictive and life-consuming. I still love it.

What advice would you give for up-and-coming journalists?
Be hungry. Be curious and pay attention to the details. Journalism is hard work – no ifs, ands or buts. If that’s not something you want to do, then don’t do this. The payoff is that you’re always learning, every day is different, and if you do it right, you make a difference.

Why did you decide to become a journalist?
When I first decided to study journalism, it was to acquire discipline in writing. I wanted to write the great American novel. But, during my first semester working for the student paper, Ka Leo O Hawaii, I was given an assignment to interview a professor who had a very controversial opinion on the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. I wrote the story, and while I was in class, I watched people’s reactions to the article. Everyone was reading the article, and it became the topic of discussion for that class, that day. People were upset. They were in disbelief. No one in that class had any idea that I had written it. It was amazing. The story had people talking, reacting. I was hooked. From that point, journalism was a calling. While I was at the student paper, I had become an editor and found my second calling to journalism. It was the immense satisfaction and accomplishment I felt in coaching, motivating and developing younger writers. Up until now, I don’t know which I love more: the reporting or developing writers. Also, I love the adrenalin of deadlines and the kind of focus it takes to do the best you can in the time you have. Nothing comes close.

Maybe it’s odd that my inspiration for a life’s career happened in a learning environment, but it has grounded my belief in student media. As publisher, I developed a partnership with our university newspaper and communication program. We assist in keeping their technology up to date, especially because many student media today are strapped for resources. To allow student media to continue to inspire, we need to keep their learning laboratories alive.

Why is media diversity important to you?
If our goal is to reflect our community and the issues that impact our community, then we have to have those perspectives present in our media. This is not a time for the perspective of the Ivory Tower. To represent the diversity of voices, opinions, perspectives that are so important to the foundation of our country, it needs to exist in our media. Our communities demand it. Our readers and viewers want to see themselves and the issues that are important to them in our coverage.

What do you love most about being Asian American?
I am half Indonesian and half Chamorro (Pacific Islander), and in those two ethnicities are a few mixtures of other Asian ethnicities, but these are the two with which I identify the most. I was raised with intense awareness about my ethnicities and the cultures with which they are defined. My mother, who is Indonesian, made it a point to keep us connected by regularly bringing us back to visit our families in Asia throughout our childhood. On Guam, the Chamorro culture is strong and prevalent. We live it daily through our celebrations, our families and our traditions.

I love that our cultures are so rich and that our cultures are grounded in strong family values. I was raised to be proud of my heritage, and it’s a value that I teach my children. My cultures are, to a great extent, who I am and the values that I hold. A couple of years ago, the newspaper partnered with the family of Clotilde Goulde to establish the scholarship for Chamorro Studies and Art at the University of Guam. I believe that as a community leader, our company has a responsibility to be engaged in and to support those issues that are critical to the future of our community.

I have had the opportunity to be a journalist in my home for my entire professional career. It is not something I take for granted. I have a stake in the development of my community. It is where I was raised, and it is where I am raising my children. Because Guam is my home and is so diverse, I believe that my heritage has helped me do a better job as a journalist because I understand and have a direct relationship with many of the issues that are important and core to our community. It definitely gave me the sensitivity that I needed to understand the different perspectives on issues. I felt that I was able to explore issues from the same place as the people who were affected. The end result was stories that were more comprehensive in their perspective and unearthed issues that weren’t always obvious at the start.

Are there any interesting facts/trivia about your past experiences and background?
When I left home for college, I had a four-year scholarship in aerospace engineering. Obviously, I changed my major, although I still love my math and sciences. I graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa with a journalism degree, which prepared me very well for the career that was to come. I love news. I love the smell of news. I love writing. I love reading. I can be a news junkie if I don’t watch myself. I am married to a wonderful husband, who is also a journalist. We have three boys, two of whom are autistic. My family is my joy.

I am the oldest of six girls. My paternal grandparents were married during World War II when the Japanese occupied Guam. They were in a concentration camp on island before Guam was recaptured by the United States. My father was born during the occupation. My maternal grandfather was an early adviser to the first Indonesian president, Sukarno.


Learn more about other AAJA members profiled for AAPI Month.