Today, I spoke with a nyc journalist writing a story on the blog Accidental Chinese Hipsters. He was interested in the topic of race and new media, a subject of great interest to me. It was generative to have a conversation.
I've been interviewed as a 'new media expert' before. It was for an article for the very awesome socio-political Asian American publication Hyphen Magazine. A story about the proliferation of Asian American babies and Youtube.com.
The Hyphen article was fantastic. The writer Luke Tsai did a great job. But after it was published, I felt that I had been, well, not necessarily misquoted because that would not be accurate but I felt my quotes were taken out of context. As a fourth year doctoral candidate in Ethnic Studies at Berkeley, my years of training includes a MA from SFSU and four years here at Cal. And perhaps, how I talk and write about race is difficult to place within the boundaries of a magazine article. Magazine articles should be accessible to the larger public, a works cited page (usually a never). I fear my quotes needed more development, perhaps a notes page, something the form of a magazine article would not allow. As someone committed to issues of social justice, this realization is not a good thing. The article, as I write above, did a fantastic job. But I realize the limitations of being quoted/’misquoted’ and the experience of being the ‘expert.’
The thing is, prior to graduate school, for years I worked as a journalist. And when I was referred to the journalist today, I decided to talk with him even with the fear of being misquoted, especially because I find it generative to learn from and with journalists covering new media. It reminds me of my former professional life when I worked as a staff writer for YOLK Magazine, the first Asian American entertainment publication and it’s online offshoot ChopBlock.com. After YOLK and Chopblock, I worked as the Web Editor for Back Stage, a national actor’s trade magazine where I covered performance art, edited casting listings, and all things thespian + html.
Unfortunately, YOLK folded in 2005 due to the difficulties in securing advertising but revamped as ChopBlock.com, the digital offshoot. My time as a journalist for Asian American media was of great fun and joy—I loved and still love engaging, supporting Asian American actors and artists.
When I moved on, working at a mainstream arts trade magazine Back Stage, the advertising issues were not nearly as insurmountable. But the digital transformation had made her mark on all print publications. It is 2005. In a few years, most daily print newspapers would go out of business. The documentary Page One does a great job detailing this transformation via the experiences of the New York Times.
When I was hired at Back Stage Magazine, the website was getting revamped. They needed to revamp the website in order to survive. The paper was founded in 1960’s New York City as the primary source for Broadway casting. Then the paper expanded nationally. However in 2005, the digital age offered competing casting websites—newer, faster, better. At the same time, our sister publications like The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, and The American Artist were all transforming and relaunching their digital forms as well. My work at Back Stage and as a journalist informs my current interest in new media studies. Today’s generative conversation jolted some nostalgia and epiphany around the need to center media workers within the scholarly questions that reside mostly in the work of critiquing new media.
My conversation today with the journalist on Accidental Chinese Hipsters reminded me [again] in a deep and personal way, how different the landscape is today for Asian Americans. When I first began working at YOLK, most of the wonderful Asian American actors and musicians we featured like Sung Kang, Tamlyn Tomita, and a personal favorite, Doug Robb of the bank Hoobastank and numerous others, were mainly drawn from and were working within traditional media—television, film, theatre. Press packets, press agents, press conferences was the flow of publicity and mediation. While I left a journalism career for graduate school (I could explain it as I wanted to write about Asian Americans, full time) I realize my roots of desire for academic writing hold the same concerns I had as a journalist. My dissertation questions centers on posthumanism and the Asian American body. While not only on new media + race, these questions around the digital age continue to emerge and complicate.
Today’s conversation reminded me of how much has changed within the media landscape. If I was still working for YOLK or Back Stage, youtube.com, facebook, and cultural producers like the blogstress of Accidental Chinese Hipsters would probably be central. Today also reminded me of my ties working within media and working as an academic critiquing media. I am deeply engaged and committed to praxis. My work on digital storytelling in the San Francisco jail is an attempt and hope of placing theory into practice into pedagogy. The boundaries are much more fluid than taught and constructed.
I admire public intellectuals because knowledge should flow outside the boundaries of the academy.
I like that I had a conversation today.
PS will save the issue of racism and The Accidental Chinese Hipster blog for another entry...