Niala Boodhoo is five generations removed from India, but she identifies as an Asian American. When describing her racial background, she will proudly say that she is Asian, but her ethnic background is West Indian. Growing up in Miami with her father, who was a Caribbean politics professor, she learned to love watching the national news. In high school, she interned at the Miami Herald, where her co-workers encouraged her to pursue her passion. This led her to study philosophy at Michigan’s Calvin College and major in journalism at Northwestern University for graduate school.
As an Asian American journalist, Boodhoo did not see herself represented in the newsroom. Going to an AAJA convention, she finally saw diversity and representation of people who looked like her in the news. She then decided to become vice president of Broadcast for the AAJA.
“It’s really important to have a variety of experiences,” she said. “Diversity isn’t just about racial or ethnic diversity. I think it’s about gender and sexual orientation, I think it’s about socioeconomic status. I think it’s about where you went to school.” This is why AAJA has been a family for Boodhoo.
In 2018, Boodhoo interviewed student journalists from the Parkland shooting.
“I think that can be a healing experience,” she said. “I think it can also be really damaging and so I just wanted to make sure that they were safe and they felt like they were in a place where they could share what they wanted,” she said.
From that experience, Boodhoo realized that there needs to be trauma-informed journalism. Ultimately, people come from different scopes in life, and taking time to understand why and how someone is reacting is important.
When describing herself, Boodhoo says that she is enthusiastic, intelligent, and empathetic. However, in 2017, Boodhoo was diagnosed with breast cancer. During that time she got a greater sense of why having sensitivity to others was important.
“I think I was empathetic before but I think it’s made me a lot more sympathetic to what people can go through like people can have terrible health problems, or be in physical pain or emotional pain. Today, Boodhoo is feeling great and is the host of the “Axios Today” podcast. Her piece of advice to upcoming journalists is to be fair, accurate, and empathetic.