Equity Board Brief #11

AAPI Journalists & Reporting on Difficult Situations

AAPI Journalists 

I know this week has been rough for a lot of us, especially our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) journalists. Eight people died in a series of shootings in Atlanta on Tuesday, six of whom were Asian women. In a time when there is an increase in hate crimes against the AAPI community, this news only adds to the overwhelming stress. In a majority-white newsroom, AAPI reporters may feel singled out, tokenized, and exploited for the sake of assisting other reporters who don’t take the time to do the research on their own. 


Underrepresented voices in the newsroom should have the opportunity to tell stories from their community, but also not be spread thin and sought out only in times like these. Their voices, work, and effort are as valuable as anyone else in the newsroom and should be respected. 

Underrepresented voices in the newsroom should have the opportunity to tell stories from their community, but also not be spread thin and sought out only in times like these.

Creating an inclusive and supportive environment for our reporters.

  • When looking for sources from a community, don’t tokenize journalists from underrepresented groups who are part of our newsroom. This essentially means that if you are doing a story on hate crimes against Asian Americans, don’t rely on our AAPI reporters to share connections. This is lazy reporting. Instead, do the research and find organizations in Los Angeles and at USC that can connect you to people for the story. More importantly, acknowledge that these groups are not monoliths. One person cannot represent the entire Asian American community. Offer space in your inquiry for guidance and don’t make assumptions about their ability to speak on the topic. 

One person cannot represent the entire Asian American community.


  • Be conscious of the language you use when communicating a source request and match the tone of the story. If it is a fun story, have a fun tone. If it is a story about a hate crime, have a serious and empathetic tone. When reaching out to people, provide background on the story and provide information that’ll help the person understand what will be expected out of the interview. Explain why they would be a good fit for the story. If you are struggling to articulate this, then perhaps there is a better source. Always offer space for them to share a different contact with someone who can better speak on the issue.

Reporting on Difficult Situations 

One thing I’ve noticed in general reporting by all newsrooms is the lack of considerate and thoughtful reporting on the shooter. For those who remember our previous executive editor, Ruby Yuan, he drilled in our reporters to be conscious of what we report to ensure we do not contribute to the contagion effect. Luckily, I haven’t seen it conducted by our newsroom but it’s still something important to reiterate. 


The contagion effect is the theory that media coverage of those conducting violent acts, such as shootings, can inspire others to conduct similar actions and pursue similar patterns. How do we limit the contagion effect? 


  • Do not glorify the shooter through photos and text. 
  • Do not share the name of the shooter unless it is imperative to the story. 
  • With events like this one, it is better to focus on the facts and the people impacted. Please be thoughtful with the details you share in the story.
  •  For more information and tips, here is an article by Poynter that outlines some good ones. 

For additional resources, go to AAJA’s website for additional information on how to report on the AAPI community and this week’s events (here is a handbook as well). Here is their current style guide that explores topics and terms and here is a recent article shared that provides guidance on how to report on the Atlanta shooting. 

Also, check out Kate Lý Johnston’s recent article, “Anti-racism resources to support Asian American, Pacific Islander community,” with NBC News for additional resources. 


Steven Vargas


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