Kim Bui Barnett

Kim Bui Barnett
By Joanna Malvas, JCamp Class of 2021

As a product of journalists who braved the Vietnam War, Kim Bui’s career is somewhat of a family calling.

From her grandparents, whose reporting challenged the political institutions in wartorn Vietnam, to her parents, who were publishers of the bilingual newspaper Atlanta Viet Bao, Bui’s path into the profession was blazed even before she realized that she had an innate desire to storytell.

“My grandmother had incredible courage because, as a journalist in a communist country, as you can imagine, there’s all sorts of attacks,” she said. “She was actually jailed in a hard labor camp in Vietnam, and she was accused of being a French sympathizer.”

Bui, the senior director of special projects at CNN, said the courage of her ancestors has fueled her own work. As a kid, she continued their tradition, entertaining friends and family with original poetry and playwriting. After graduating from Clayton Valley High School in 1990, Bui moved on to college in Sacramento, before transferring to Kennesaw State University in Georgia, where graduated with a degree in communications. Around the same time, her parents helped found the Asian American Journalists Association’s Atlanta chapter, setting the stage for her own future service.

In 1994, Bui landed her first job as a reporter at the Marietta Daily Journal under the Alpharetta Neighbor newspaper. The following year, a previous conversation with Joie Chen at the UNITY Convention in Atlanta in 1994 proved the launchpad for a career at CNN. Bui worked her way up the ranks as a producer over the course of 26 years, taking on assignments from multiple departments to display her versatility as a journalist.

Since 2011 Bui has overseen “Impact Your World,” a multimedia project inspired by the heart-rending story of Youssif, an Iraqi boy in surgical need. The initiative has since tackled stories about Asian hate and the recent spa shootings while offering resources on allyship and community engagement.

On the side, Bui has been a steady presence within AAJA. She volunteered for years alongside fellow Atlanta chapter members, ultimately becoming the local president in 2009.

And she hasn’t lost sight of her own identity. She said her background as a Vietnamese-American adds an important perspective to the newsroom, especially in today’s time of rising political tensions.

“During this pivotal moment following George Floyd and Asian hate and a lot of what’s happening around the world globally around awareness — I think it’s important to remember that it shouldn’t be just this moment. There was work done prior to this that we can build on, and there is a lot of work yet to do. It’s really time to move beyond the talking and take action,” Bui said.
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