Asian Pacific Heritage Month 2018: Who’s your #inspirasian?

It’s Asian Pacific Heritage Month, and the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is celebrating those phenomenal Asian Americans who inspire our members to do their jobs. We’ll share some of our #inspirasians throughout the month, complete with original essays and artwork honoring them. Share your own #inspirasians on social media with the hashtag, and be sure to come back to check out a new profile every Tuesday and Thursday in May.

Questions? Email


inspriasian_MeredithTalusan_notext.jpgMeredith Talusan

Meredith Talusan is an author and the executive editor of Them. They have published work in such publications as The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Vice, and will soon release a memoir through Viking/Penguin Random House.

“I was so bored of tech journalism. The kind that was everywhere: fawning pieces about venture capital raises and pitch competitions and disruptors. But it was my beat, the tech scene in Philadelphia, so I often found myself consuming the same old national headlines, just to stay up to date.

Then I found Meredith Talusan. They were writing about how the internet had changed the balance of power for Filipina mail-order brides, how they learned of the unreliability of algorithms while searching for their sister and how Filipino call centers not only became a haven for trans women but also cultivated trans women’s identities

Threads of technology, business and labor ran through all these stories, but there were also people: beautiful, nuanced, complicated portraits of people; like how, in one story, Meredith includes a trans call center worker’s criticism of trans sex workers, one that’s hard to read and can feel unfair, but then, immediately after, Meredith helps us understand why this call center worker might feel that way. 

They have a way of finding stories about people you recognize from your life but — perhaps carelessly — don’t think too hard about: the Filipina yaya looking for love online, the person handling your complaint over the phone and then their stories show you a whole different world, their stories make you curious, they make you care. And since Meredith was often writing about Filipinos, this was especially important to me, as a Filipina who’s spent most of her life in the United States desperate to strengthen her ties and understanding of the place her parents came from.

To see Meredith’s writing in national publications made me think: Oh, people are interested in us. Filipinos. Or maybe more importantly: I am interested in us. And I can write about us, too.”

— Juliana Feliciano Reyes

Juliana Feliciano Reyes is a reporter at The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Daily News. She’s the president of AAJA-Philadelphia.

Artwork by Nicole Vas, a news designer for The Hill in Washington, D.C.



Jorge Cham

Jorge Cham is a cartoonist. He is best known for his comic strip, Piled Higher and Deeper, which depicts the lives of several graduate students.

“Jorge Cham was one of the first Asian American popular media/content creators whom I found. I started reading his comics when I was in high school. His work was funny and — even though I wasn’t a graduate student — poignant and relatable.

I loved how his animated videos could communicate research through these close portraits of scientists and their work. He made me realize that there was a non-traditional path to success and inspired me to look for different ways of doing.”

— Angus Chen

Angus Chen is a reporter and radio podcaster. His work has appeared on NPR, WNYC and in Scientific American.

Artwork by Nicole Vas, a news designer for The Hill in Washington, D.C.


inspirasian_JanelaCarrera_notext.jpgJanela Carerra

Janela Carrera is a television news anchor and news director at Pacific News Center in Guam. 

“Janela Carrera has been in the island news business longer than most. For her, it is not just a stepping stone: It is a place of importance and worthy of storytellers such as herself. 

Her intentionality and relationship with the community shape her storytelling in ways that the residents can trust.

Janela took me under her wing when I was just in high school, covering the aftermath of Typhoon Soudelor. She allowed me to cultivate sources and learn the ropes as a young aspiring journalist. Later, in college, she welcomed me back to continue working and covering stories in the islands that often are overlooked.

During my time with her, she always challenged me to question my own biases and encouraged me to find and tell stories in different ways. 

Without Janela, I am not sure if I would be pursuing the field in college. I aspire to be her when I enter the workforce. And now, even if I am thousands of miles away from the islands, I still tune in at 12:30 AM PST to watch her deliver the news.”

— Thomas Mangloña II 

Thomas Mangloña II is a student and Gates Millennium Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley. He currently serves as the Executive Director of CalTV and previously worked at the Pacific News Center.

Artwork by Nicole Vas, a news designer for The Hill in Washington, D.C.


inspirasian_JustinChing_notext.jpgJustin R. Ching

Justin R. Ching is the Founder of j-school, a production company specializing in stories about underrepresented communities (people of color, women, LGBTQ). He produced the Amazon Original Series “Ritual,” and was an award-winning showrunner at FOX. 

“Justin R. Ching’s work ethic, drive and ambition is relentless. He never stops. More than anyone I know, he’s single-mindedly focused on the future, working round the clock every day and every week of the year. He’s constantly pushing himself, has incredibly high expectations for himself and, even more shockingly, he consistently fulfills them. But it’s the reason behind his fearsome thirst for success that makes him a rarity in this industry and the world. 

He is firmly rooted in a desire to help others. Whether it’s to further Asian American issues or to lend a helping hand to his loved ones, he frequently drops everything to go not the extra mile — but the extra 100 miles.

He is wholly dedicated to furthering the Asian Pacific American community’s place and influence in society. Whether it’s through his work or his personal life, everything leads back to an ardent and fierce passion for activism and advocacy. He doesn’t just talk the talk: He puts his money where his mouth is and invests his time, energy and work into the cause. 

He invests in the immediate people around him. He does whatever he can in his power in order to see others succeed, and helps without expecting anything in return.

When I first met him, he barely knew me. Yet he was willing to offer his advice, support and even helped me find work in an extremely hostile and competitive industry. I’ve seen him do this with virtual strangers 100 times over. For his loved ones, he gives his all and all of him — even willing to sacrifice his famous, personal ambition to see others happy.

He makes the people around him better people, enriching their lives and character.”

— Sarah Cho

Sarah Cho is an Associate Producer on Showtime’s “Below the Belt.” 

Artwork by Nicole Vas, a news designer for The Hill in Washington, D.C.

inspirasian_JeffChang_notext.jpgJeff Chang

Jeff Chang is a journalist, author, and a founding editor of Colorlines Magazine. His books include “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation,” and “Who We Be: The Colorization of America.” He has also served as a senior editor for, and co-founded the hip-hop indie label now known as Quannum.

“My career, which largely sits at the intersection of arts and social critique, would not exist without Jeff Chang’s work. He probably doesn’t know this, as we’ve never actually met, but his writing and editorial acumen built a base for how I approach arts and culture journalism, and where I took that approach later on.

I learned about Colorlines, for which Chang worked as a founding editor, through my mother. She brought issues of the then-print magazine home. Reading Colorlines opened my eyes to conversations about racial injustice that escaped most major media outlets of the time. The stories and editorials, when I could understand them, offered some much-needed perspective as I stumbled through my post-9/11 adolescence in a predominantly white Connecticut suburb.

But I didn’t know Chang’s name back then. I finally learned it several years later, right after I graduated from college, when I picked up his book, Can’t Stop Won’t Stop. I found an education and purpose in his comprehensive examination of the hip hop generation, whose cultural rebellion against an oppressive society permanently changed my life — and, I suspect, the lives of others reading this.

Chang reached me at a time when I struggled to find my creative and professional voice as an Asian American, and was obsessed with pop culture and depressed by how little I saw myself within it. He presented a template for how our communities can engage with and understand hip hop — which, like all American music, cannot be separated from its origins in Black communities responding to anti-Black racism — without being colonizers.

I took the lessons of Can’t Stop Won’t Stop into my own journalism career, which began with arts coverage and criticism for a now-defunct Philadelphia alt-weekly. My preoccupation with art’s relationship to society turned into cogent writing for a number of publications. I brought these views into my first and current full-time journalism job, as an arts and culture reporter for Colorlines. Jeff Chang allowed my work to come full circle, and I remain forever indebted to him for helping me find my fullest self.”

— Sameer Rao

Sameer Rao is a reporter for Colorlines, focusing on arts and culture. 

Artwork by Nicole Vas, a news designer for The Hill in Washington, D.C.

kathy_chow.jpgKathy Chow

Kathy Chow served as the executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association for eight years. She will soon become the first female executive director of the American Association of Cosmetology Schools.

“Ever since Kathy Chow came to AAJA eight years ago as executive director, she has brought leadership and stability to this organization. 

But even beyond that, she has taken the time to mentor many of its members — myself, included. My two years on the AAJA governing board have been revelatory for my job and career, and I owe so much of that to Kathy. She supported me through a time of uncertainty and stress as I weighed moving from the Midwest to the big city in order to accomplish more in my career. 

When I was only thinking about next month, or next year, Kathy pushed me to think farther down the line. She offered her support and empathy — and even tough love, when I needed it. I am incredibly lucky to have received this type of guidance from Kathy, and I know I wasn’t the only one.

She has always put AAJA members first, from young journalists to seasoned veterans. From long nights of convention planning to sending flowers for a death in a member’s family to even makeup advice, Kathy has embodied the idea that AAJA is family.

Thank you for all that you did for us, Kathy.”

— Esther Gim

Esther Gim is a copy editor at Mic. She helped organize the inaugural AAJA Story Slam and is a former governing board member. 

Artwork by Emily Eng, a visual storyteller at The Seattle Times.


diep-tran.jpgDiep Tran

Diep Tran is the senior editor of American Theatre. Her writing has also appeared in The New York Times, Playbill, Backstage and Salon.

“As a dreamer, I have always been attracted to the glittery spectacle that is theatre. But lately, in the age of #MeToo and amid my burgeoning intersectional feminism, I had to experience paradigm shifts to question the theatre I consumed. I had to expose myself to the criticism of the things I love.

Tran has helped me with that. One of the starting points of my growth was reading Diep Tran’s “I Am Miss Saigon, and I Hate It” piece on the American Theatre. The piece showed me that Tran and I share an intimate heritage to Vietnam, which affected our families on a day-to-day basis.

She has an intersectional mindset when it comes to matters of the theatre and the waves of showbiz. She challenges the society and makings that perpetuates the sexualization of women. She has an extensive vocabulary and aptitude on representation and diversity, which the theatre community still struggles with.

I feel my journalistic vocabulary improves after reading her writing. It’s one thing to read her work, but it’s another thing to meet her in person by coincidence at an AAJA meeting. She encouraged me to elevate my passion by applying to competitive fellowships. As I go further in my career, her encouragement is my fuel.”

— Caroline Cao

Caroline Cao is a screenwriter, playwright, poet and film critic studying for her MFA in nonfiction at The New School. She has written for Birth Movies Death, Film School Rejects, The Mary Sue, Indiewire and Reverse Shot. Follow her on Twitter at @maximinalist.

Artwork by Emily Eng, a visual storyteller at The Seattle Times.


inspirasian_HenryFuhrmann_notext.jpgHenry Fuhrmann

Henry Furhmann was an assistant managing editor at The Los Angeles Times, and is currently an adjunct instructor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

“If you’re looking for the loudest person in the room, it can be easy to overlook Henry (though he might stand out for his height). He’s the calming center amid the storm of deadline chaos, and he’s a reassuring presence in any situation.

During his many years as assistant managing editor at The Los Angeles Times, he advocated for the often unsung heroes of the copy desk — elevating their excellent headlines and making sure people knew their names. 

Beyond advocating for people who might not necessarily sing their own praises, Henry truly knows the value of media diversity. He has hired and promoted people from varied backgrounds, ensuring that multiple viewpoints are considered in presenting the news. 

On top of that, he is a longtime rock in AAJA’s Los Angeles chapter. I’m glad not only to have Henry as a fellow AAJA member but to call him a friend and an #inspirasian.”

— Doris Truong

Doris Truong is a homepage editor at The Washington Post, and a former national president of AAJA.

Artwork by Nicole Vas, a news designer for The Hill in Washington, D.C.


inspirasian_FrankShyong_notext.jpgFrank Shyong

Frank Shyong is a reporter at The Los Angeles Times, where he writes about Asian communities in Southern California. He is a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied economics.

“When I read an article about the API communities written by Frank, I always know it will be done with sensitivity and a great amount of research. In a world of 24-hour news and catchy headlines, Los Angeles Times staff writer Frank Shyong displays the journalistic integrity that we are often told has been lost in media coverage.

I served alongside Frank on the AAJA’s Los Angeles chapter board in 2017 — and that’s when I learned about his passionate commitment to the community. He led one of our best-attended events to date called “Food, Identity and Media: A Conversation Between Chefs and Journalists.” A star-studded lineup of Asian chefs and mostly white editors faced off Sharks vs. Jets style to talk “ethnic,” cultural appropriation and authenticity when reporting on Asian cuisine. 

Frank’s pieces, from a Vietnamese police chief in Alhambra to a Cambodian restaurant in Long Beach, are the local narratives often left out of our national news scene — and are the stories that we often need most in today’s political climate. Frank writes with that old school newspaper columnist’s attention to detail that some editors find lacking from our newspapers today.

As a journalist, I read his pieces to become a better writer. As a reader, I share his pieces to be a better neighbor. 

I applaud Frank for his continued commitment to our communities — both inside and outside of the newsroom — and always look forward to sharing his articles on our diverse Asian American community in Los Angeles.”

— Mariko Lochridge

Mariko Lochridge is a freelance reporter for Reuters, NBC Asian America and others. She currently resides in Los Angeles, and serves on the board of AAJA’s Los Angeles chapter. 

Artwork by Nicole Vas, a news designer at The Hill in Washington, D.C.


janice-min.jpgJanice Min

Janice Min is a consultant for NBCU Cable Entertainment and Valence Media, the parent company of the Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group. She was editorial director of The Hollywood Reporter and previously served as the co-president and chief creative officer of the Hollywood Reporter-Billboard Media Group. She has also led the newsroom at Us Weekly and worked at Life Magazine and InStyle. 

“Every one of the few times I was in a room with Janice Min, she had a Starbucks venti-sized cup of liquid caffeine in front of her on the table. I remember thinking, if I wore as many metaphorical hats as she did, I’d need that much caffeine at 10 a.m., too.

I was slack-jawed when she walked into my first meeting at The Hollywood Reporter and I found out she was the boss. Among mostly white journalists, Min was the Asian American woman at the head of the table in our editorial meetings. As one of the only Asian Americans in my intern class, I couldn’t help but see myself becoming her one day — she seemed to have it all: she was the head of not one, but two publications, a working mother and she possessed an irreplaceable talent that launched a struggling publication to new heights.

Since she first came on my radar three years ago, I’ve seen Min take down the patriarchy, tweet by tweet; star as a guest expert on news shows; earn promotions; and advocate for the #MeToo movement, among other things. Even from afar, she continues to inspire me to be unafraid of being a mixed-race Asian American woman in journalism — and to be a loud one at that — even if I’m the only one of my kind in the room.”

— KiMi Robinson 

KiMi Robinson is an assistant correspondent at Japanese newswire Kyodo News’ Los Angeles bureau and a contributor to HelloGiggles’ The Blend, a vertical celebrating mixed and multicultural experiences.

Artwork by Emily Eng, a visual storyteller at The Seattle Times.

Read more about our #inspirasians for APA Heritage Month 2017:

Default photo artwork by Zac Wong

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