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Interview with Cameron Hong

CH: Cameron Hong

AM: Ashley Morrow

AM: Hello! My name is Ashley Morrow, and I am a Webmaster for the student-led organization AAPSU. I recently had the opportunity to interview Cameron Hong, a journalist passionate about helping writers in their middle school and high school years learn more about the field of journalism.

AM: Cameron Hong is a student journalist and the co-founder of the Published Points of View, an educational initiative that instructs emerging young writers on the principles of journalism. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of The Outspoken, a digital newspaper that serves as a platform to uplift student voices. Her recent accolades include being one of just 29 recipients of the 2023 Princeton Prize in Racial Relations, an award given to students who show initiative in fostering greater inclusivity in their communities, as well as combating intolerance and prejudices. I had the honor of speaking with Cameron on her experiences in leading The Outspoken and co-founding Published Points of View.

AM: First, can you tell us a bit more about your background in journalism?

CH: “I’ve been involved in journalism since my freshman year. I got my start in an online student publication, The Outspoken, where I was taken on as an editorial contributor before I became the editor of our world news section. And, being involved in a community of student journalists who were also familiarizing themselves with the norms and the activity as well was a very unique experience I’m grateful for. I know many students take journalism classes as well as, perhaps, intern at a professional publication. But, aside from that, if there's an opportunity to immediately immerse yourself in the journalism community, that was personally very inspirational for me and I would recommend it.

From there, I was taken on as the Editor-in-Chief before starting Published Points of View with my co-founder. We developed a curriculum to train students throughout Southern California in journalism, and eventually brought that to Ukraine through the Holos Project. I love that students who are also going into their freshman year like I was when I started journalism have been able to get to know how they can very easily get involved in this activity.”

AM: Wow. That is so inspiring! Could you tell me what led you to start Published Points of View?

CH: “When I was conducting onboarding for The Outspoken–I think that a very obvious issue prevalent in many high school activity is that it’s often confined to certain select schools and demographics (and I do recognize my own privilege to have the time and connections within my school environment to be involved in something like student journalism).

We hoped to address that issue in any way that we were able to, which was to bolster journalism education available in our local area. And, so, we applied to the Dragon Kim Foundation Fellowship, which was essentially a grant for $5,000 dollars for any passion project of ours. My deputy editor and I were very lucky to be admitted, and from there we were provided mentors who were really amazing. One of them was Daniel Kim. He was a principal at Third Street Elementary in Los Angeles. The other was Joseph Kim, he ran a local tennis instruction program. They were incredibly helpful in providing mentorship as to how to actually get things going–doing things like cold emailing, reaching out to teachers, professionally handling parents and students in a way that I think our sophomore selves would probably not have had the ability to do on our own.

We conducted the preparation work over our sophomore year, and throughout the summer between our sophomore year and our junior year we started to host our workshops. So, we used a nomination system to ensure that we taught students who had something they were very passionate about and were known by their teachers to be very, like, opinionated. Not necessarily the best writers, as a criterion, but more so those who really wanted to get their voices out and would really love to, you know, see themselves published.

We taught middle school and elementary school grade levels to research, construct a basic op-ed, as well as address opposing perspectives, things like that. Aside from journalism, I think a really important thing we wanted to highlight was the effective consideration of other perspectives that could also exist with confidence in your own convictions. An important part of our curriculum was this general sentiment that objectivity and like, cold facts, should not be as glorified in journalism as it currently is, because a lot of those structures of objectivity very much shut off opportunities for people to communicate their own stories and subjective feelings about a certain issue. Those are still certainly just as important. So, we wanted to really bring that out of students, and tell them, “Hey, what you have seen and felt through your brother’s experience in education, or your parents’ immigration story — that is just as valid and that is just as important to express within your journalism work.”

AM: Going back to what you said about objectivity, is there another issue you found in popular public news sources like Politico, LA Times, [or The] Washington Post that your organization as well as The Outspoken seek to resolve?

CH: Absolutely. L.A. Times newsrooms, for instance, really do not have diversity in staff that is comparable to the actual diversity of Los Angeles itself. The issue with that is, I think quite obviously, [that since] the news is where we formulate our opinions, and where we get our daily intake of information, our basic informational sources not being created with diverse perspectives makes it very difficult to stimulate things such as sustainable progress or accurate representation of perspectives on very controversial or salient issues. And our main mission with Published Points of View, as well as The Outspoken, was to--even if these students were not going to go into professional journalism themselves (which we certainly still wanted to encourage) --give students the soft skills to engage in advocacy and opinionated writing. To put their thoughts on paper–to know that it’s not just about analyzing other people’s opinions and learning what the most highly regarded scholars have to say, but it's also about forwarding your own personal perspectives. Very critical individual perspectives are not represented within newsrooms today, because they are not accessed within those more institutionalized versions of information."

AM: I also was hoping to ask: how does your organization work actively to increase representation for people of color in journalism?

CH:”All of our students are either in middle school or their early high school years, so we surveyed our students to assess what their level of interest in journalism as a profession was pre and post workshop. We did notice that there was an increase in students that wanted to at least pursue journalism as a hobby throughout their high school career and then possibly consider it as a professional option. Obviously, student journalism is important as a reflection of not only the student body that will make up the professional newsroom staff down the line but also what youth perspectives are right now.”

AM: I was wondering also, what would your message be to Asian American students who would be hoping to get involved in the field of journalism? And what would you tell your younger self, as a person who was looking to get involved in journalism from a very young age?

CH: “I think, to your first question, at some point you will feel some uncertainty or discomfort with putting yourself out there and defining your voice as one that is important to listen to. To advocate for yourself as a journalist and those who you are representing. When you are experiencing this type of conflict it’s very, very beneficial to seek those who are within your same situation. When I led our team of volunteers for Published Points of View it was inspiring to see other students my age very, very engaged in and passionate about journalism. I think that confirmed my own sense of passion for the activity even if I did feel some bit of uncertainty–which was okay.

Another thing: keep in mind that your own individual perspective as an Asian American individual is not wholly representative of our community. And that’s not to say that it’s not reflective of what needs to be addressed, or what issues relate to Asian American justice, but rather that you should not speak on behalf of other people as a journalist–you should ensure that you are not inadvertently characterizing our community as some sort of monolith. This is obviously something that we would all like to avoid, but can become very easy to accidentally do at times, which is to say that all Asian American individuals have the same needs or the same perspectives, political opinions, leanings, things like that. That can be harmful in that it doesn't address our unique perspectives and experiences. This can depend on our ethnicity within the Asian American community, what our own unique immigration story was, how we experience Asian American violence on a personal level–all of these are very important, so it’s very important to ensure we don’t blanketing all of these issues with a single statement as a representation of them.”

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