By Ruth Bayang
Lori Matsukawa has announced she will retire.
The pioneer and trailblazer in television news will appear one last time as KING 5 anchor on June 14.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Matsukawa first considered a career in journalism during her year as Miss Teenage America in 1974.
“Imagine,” she thought, “getting paid to travel to cool places and talk to people!”
She passed on a job offer at the Los Angeles Times to be an anchor and reporter in Redding, Calif., followed by a stint in Portland, Ore. and then landing a job in Seattle. She joined KING 5 in 1983.
There were few Asian American women on the air in TV news at the time. Among them were Connie Chung, former CBS Evening News anchor, and Wendy Tokuda, a Seattle native and former KPIX anchor in San Francisco.
“I looked up to them as people I could emulate, people who looked like me, working in big cities.”
There was a time when the Northwest Asian Weekly would publish job announcements whenever a local television station hired on-air talent of Asian American descent. Now, it’s not such an anomaly anymore, so we’ve stopped.
That’s progress, and Lori Matsukawa led the way. In the Seattle market, Lori Matsukawa was the Jean Enersen for Asian American women.
In a 1999 interview with The Seattle Times, Matsukawa said, “I was part of that wave where it was very vogue to hire a woman. But I think there were concerns over hiring an Asian American woman. Connie Chung was the only big one at the time. It was like, weekends and mornings are fine, but do you want a woman of color as your primetime standard-bearer for the station?”
Today, Asian American women are the faces you see on primetime television in Seattle. In addition to Matsukawa, there’s Molly Shen and Mary Nam on KOMO 4, and Monique Ming Laven and Siemny Kim on KIRO 7.
Thank you, Lori, for carving a path for other Asian American women and journalists to follow.
As an Asian American journalist, it’s very satisfying to see faces like mine represented in Seattle. As we celebrate this progress, we must remember not to be complacent. Behind the scenes, there have always been plenty of Asian Americans working as writers, producers, directors, photographers, editors, and assignment editors. But to make real change, Asian Americans need to advance to positions where the real power lies—as news managers and media executives.