We close out Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a spotlight on ABC7 Chicago news anchor Judy Hsu, who discussed her career path and work to uplift voices in the AAPI community during her interview for NAB’s Voices from the Field series. Following is an excerpt of her conversation.
When did you first realize you had a calling for broadcasting, and was there anyone or anything in particular that inspired you?
In high school I ended up joining the high school newspaper…not to get into the business, but because I thought I was so new in the community and relatively new to this country that it would be just a nice way to meet people. But my first assignment was to interview the principal of my high school. Here I am sitting across from his big desk…just immigrated to this country a few years earlier, and I’m like, “Wow, I get to ask him questions about how the school is run…This is the job of a reporter. Maybe I could do something like that.” I talked my parents into letting me major in journalism, got into the campus radio station and fell in love with the broadcasting part of it. But I do want to give a shout out to the Illinois Broadcasters Association. They were the ones who gave me that very first opportunity to have an internship with a TV station in Chicago. I took a semester off from college to intern at the CBS station in Chicago. And that was my very first taste of broadcast news in Chicago. Without that internship through the Illinois Broadcasters Association, I’m not so sure that I would be here today.
Are there particular projects that you work on either daily or weekly that you’re particularly proud of?
I’m really, really proud of a half hour special that we do every year in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. But this year, it took on special significance because of the hate crimes that have been reported across the country – a very difficult and painful subject for a lot of people. But, it’s important to address. So we not only address that, but we of course wanted to have our special to be full of uplifting stories that really lift up the community and lift up the voices of the AAPI community…If you want to go online and check it out, they have our special. It is at abc7chicago.com. It’s called “Our Chicago, Asian Voices.”
As a woman and a journalist of a particular background, how do you feel the industry has changed or adapted over the years to provide opportunities for women like yourself to be in the business and be part of that conversation?
In short, we have come a long way. Pre-pandemic when you walk into ABC7’s newsroom, you can see across the board, how diverse that newsroom is in terms of gender, and race and background. But when I first started in the business, the first station I worked at, right after graduating from the University of Illinois, Urbana- Champaign, I had no female managers in any capacity. I don’t think I had a female producer. I was the only Asian American talent face in the entire market of Champaign- Urbana at that time. Today, I was hired by a female general manager. I work for a female news director, a female assistant news director, I anchor three newscasts. Of the three shows two of the producers are women. So, we really have come a long way in making sure that there is that diversity of opportunity. Can we always do better, of course. There’s diversity and there’s inclusion. Let’s have diversity in our newsrooms, let’s include everybody’s voices at the table when those editorial meetings and decisions are being made.
What sort of advice would you give a young person maybe a child who was like you were at age 11 and is trying to think about what they can do to be a part of the world and make a contribution? What advice would you give them about getting into broadcasting?
I probably would say this answer applies to all industries that we go into. I have four kids right now, they range from 11 to 19. My oldest is a college freshman, just starting to think about what he wants to do in life and a bit confused. And I always tell him, my other kids and all of the students I talk to that first of all you have to believe in yourself, you really do. It doesn’t matter what you end up wanting to do along the way. You’ll have some naysayers. We’ve all experienced that. Don’t let others define what your dream is going to be. So, you have to kind of know yourself, believe in yourself. Certainly, you have to be resilient. You have to have that grit because you’re going to have to knock on a lot of doors.
What do you think is the most important thing for viewers to keep in mind about the importance of local journalism? And what makes it so unique and critical to our lives?
I think the COVID-19 pandemic has really demonstrated and probably reiterated the importance and the role of local broadcasting or journalism, whether it’s broadcast or print. Yes, there was a lot of noise for a long time with other avenues of accessing news. But, I really think when something as major as the pandemic, when there was so much confusion, especially in the beginning when we asked what is happening, what is going on, what are the details and what are the facts, that’s what gives us purpose. But the thing is, those of us in in the news business know that we didn’t just do that for the pandemic, just like I’m not just telling stories of the AAPI community during the month of May for Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. We do it on a daily basis. We tell these stories that make a difference in our community every single day.
Click here to watch the entire Voices From the Field interview with Judy Hsu.