Today’s #MediaMonday features Terry Tang of The Associated Press’ Phoenix bureau, where she covers everything from spot news to race/ethnicity issues to lifestyle. She also serves as president of the Arizona chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association.
Terry, time to share!
How did you get into journalism? Tell us your story!
In high school, I would always open my hometown paper, the San Jose Mercury News, as soon as I got home. I found myself gravitating first to the entertainment section because I’m a pop culture nerd. I wanted to be an entertainment journalist and wondered what it would be like to be Barbara Walters walking with a celebrity through his/her backyard. LOL.
I settled on UCLA for college because that would put me in the heart of Hollywood. I ended up writing for the Daily Bruin. I eventually became editor of the Film & TV section. As a student reporter, I got to interview Tom Hanks, John Lithgow (whose wife was a professor there), Margaret Cho, Jack Lemmon and several others.
After college, I moved to New York to intern for Entertainment Weekly magazine. After about a year, I felt the West Coast calling me back even though I had no plan. I ended up moving back in with the folks in the San Francisco Bay Area. I interned for Wired magazine and then learned about community journalism freelancing for various local weeklies.
Tell us how you came to start working in the Valley media scene?
By 2006, I was hard-pressed to find any steady journalism jobs in Northern California. I was this close to accepting a job as a classroom aide when I got an offer to be an editorial assistant for The Associated Press. I moved to Phoenix that April. Since then, I’ve climbed the ranks to general assignment reporter and even dabbled as an editor. I also got the best training to cover hard news and be more than a features writer. I’m now settled in my beat as a race and ethnicity reporter.
Tell us more about your work with The Associated Press?
At The Associated Press, I get to write about stories related to people of color and they don’t have to be Arizona-related. If there’s breaking news in Phoenix, I will drop everything. That can make for very strange work days sometimes. For example, I’ll cover a murder sentencing in the morning and write about cultural appropriation of food in the afternoon.
The race and ethnicity stories can be about anything from the serious (anti-bias training, the cash bailout system’s effects on the poor and minorities) to light-hearted (lack of diversity in Hallmark movies, the surge of Asian Americans at the movies because of “Crazy Rich Asians”).
I’m also always trying to be a better photographer with my cellphone camera. Like most outlets, we don’t have a huge photo staff, so reporters often are expected to be a one-man/woman band.
When I’m not working I like…..
On my days off, I like to try new restaurants, go to brunch, catch up on my TV binge-watching, go hiking, hang out with the dog, and bake or more like “procrasti-bake.” I mainly like to make cupcakes. They’re like tiny little canvases.
Any favorite stories you have covered?
I wouldn’t say this story was my favorite, but it was the one that left the most indelible impression on me. I was an editorial assistant when I got sent to Tucson to cover the 2011 shooting of former Rep. Gabby Giffords because no reporters were reachable. I learned the dos and don’ts of parachuting into a breaking news situation and to quickly dictate useable sentences. I also was tethered to Tucson for three days with no toiletries and change of clothes. That was definitely an experience!
One of my favorite articles actually happened recently. I did a race and ethnicity story on a campaign against the term, “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” It’s rooted in a stereotype from the 1960s that all food at Chinese American restaurants is loaded with MSG and makes people sick. I learned from the campaign the term is still in Merriam-Webster dictionary! I was one of the first reporters to reach out to Merriam for a statement and a spokeswoman said they would look at revising it. If they revise it, I’m taking partial credit because...well...it’s the dictionary!
Anything else you’d care to share…
I’m also president of the Arizona chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association. AAJA was started in 1981 by AAPI journalists who wanted to build a support system to tackle issues of representation and fair coverage. The goal is to raise money for scholarships for aspiring journalists in college and high school. You don’t have to be Asian or a journalist to join - we welcome PR pros because they have good ideas on things like how to pitch stories and they probably know better how to stage an event. Feel free to check out aaja.org to find out more. Our chapter is always open to new members.
Where can we find you?