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May 27, 2021

NBC News reporter Kimmy Yam and MSNBC anchor Richard Lui talk about the joys of covering the AAPI community and the challenges of covering an ethnically, culturally and linguistically diverse diaspora. The following excerpts have been edited for length and clarity.

Kimmy Yam: I think that a lot of people look at themselves, and they’re like, “Oh, I’m Asian American. So that makes me qualified to write about Asian Americans.” That’s untrue. We don’t know everything about the community by just being Asian American. There’s a lot of blind spots. So you have to go out there and talk to people and do the reading, do a crap ton of reading. And you might not want to spend those Saturday nights in while everyone’s having fun, but sometimes you need to be studying and studying and studying. I first started out at a [news] fellows program, it was $10 an hour. It’s barely livable in New York City, but I wanted it so bad. I would just sit there hours and hours every single night, pull up so many different articles and see why they were effective. What about this headline works? And that pays off, because the learning curve is pretty steep. But unless you’re doing that, you’re going to be a very average journalist who doesn’t actually move the community forward. Like you told me all those years ago, it’s about being humble and going forward to do what the craft is about, not what you think it will bring you.

Richard Lui: I love your comment about just because I’m Asian doesn’t mean I’ll be a good reporter on Asian America. I went through that myself when [the 2007 shooting at] Virginia Tech happened, and the gunman happened to be of Asian descent. I realized what I didn’t know, and that kind of began this long journey of: What does it mean to be Asian American? What do the 50 communities represent to us? What are the languages, what do the different regionalities mean? I’m still learning tons. But that was the beginning of my talking about this. Because I happen to be the only Asian American Pacific Islander in the newsroom, then I got to own this. And that began this long journey of doing tons of community events, for now over a decade, to try to understand, because our community keeps on changing and evolving. It’s really a vibrant thing.