By James Tabafunda
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
It was 10:30 in the morning on Oct. 19, 2004, when my life journey took a turn in a new and unexpected direction.
I walked into the office of the Northwest Asian Weekly feeling positive about my first “man-on-the-street” interview. I don’t remember the central question, but it was a first to have my opinion jotted down and added to others for an article.
Then-editor Carol Vu, assistant editor Anne-Marie Stillion, and I talked for a half hour, a meeting where Ann-Marie took my picture and asked me to write for the paper. Her request caught me completely by surprise.
I thought writing one or two articles might be a good opportunity, having no idea it would later turn out to be one of the best opportunities in my life.
Carol told me that she had read some of my newsletter articles for the Seattle chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association. I thanked her, and that was enough for me to accept the offer.
America really is the land of opportunity. Writing for the paper was an opportunity I had to take. I wanted to see if I had that special ability to tell stories. I knew that if I could do it well, then giving others important news and information would make a difference in the world.
As I left, crossing Maynard Avenue and walking past Hing Hay Park, I felt very excited about my new profession. I knew I had to quickly adapt my newsletter writing skills to fit a new medium.
The next day, I began reading issue after issue of the paper so I could learn its “voice.” If I was going to do this, I wanted to make sure I was going to do it right.
A few weeks later, my first article, “Abu Ghraib investigator deflects hero label” appeared on page 3 of the Nov. 6–Nov. 12, 2004 issue. I was thrilled I didn’t get the rejection letter every writer dreads saying my first article wasn’t good enough to be printed.
I’ve never wondered if I made the right decision. Considering that my first article led to almost 200 more during my time with the paper, I know I made one of the best decisions I could.
Eight years of creativity, research, interviewing, writing, and handling pressure have developed my passion for journalism.
Assunta Ng’s vision is “to harness ethnic media’s power to grow communities.” The Northwest Asian Weekly has been a leader in telling stories of local Mongolian, Cambodian, Burmese, and many other Asian American communities. It’s been an honor for me to raise awareness of the unique experiences of these three communities. If that contributes to their growth, then I know I’ve done what she calls making “the invisible visible.”
I do this because I value the freedom of the press that’s expressly written into the Constitution by our country’s forefathers.
What could possibly match this privilege? Only being a substitute newspaper editor, a two-time guest lecturer at Pacific Lutheran University, a two-time radio talk show guest for KBCS, having my work cited in a Seattle Post-Intelligencer article, and winning a 2008 Washington Newspaper Publishers Association award. All of these are directly connected to my freelance writing and photography for Northwest Asian Weekly.
Carol and Anne-Marie didn’t know it back then, but they were really asking me if I would like to create journalism that matters. In the paper’s 30-year existence, I feel fortunate to be a part of a family-run news organization that works toward that noble goal. (end)
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.