Getting Open: Unlocking Sports For the AAPI Journalist

by Donna Tam, Digital Editor at Marketplace

The sports industry is often plagued by stereotypes and this practice extends to include the journalists
who cover it
. The audience for sports has grown internationally and across demographics, yet the number of Asian American journalists covering the industry remain relatively small, according to ESPN Deputy Editor Michael Huang.

A 20-year media veteran, Huang works for ESPN International and oversees all cross-platform content for ESPN China. In the panel “Getting Open: Unlocking Sports For The AAPI Journalist,” Huang will discuss with other AAPI sports journalists about the challenges Asian American sports journalists face and how to get more into the ranks.

He spoke with 2016 AAJA convention chair and Associated Press reporter Sally Ho about international fandom and the status of AAPI sports journalists.

51fXEyGQ: What can people expect from your panel? What do you hope attendees will gain from the discussion?

Huang: I hope that attendees, especially the younger professionals or college students, can see that sports journalism is a burgeoning area of coverage for AAPIs and will continue to be so. With the arrival of China and India onto the international sports fan base, there has never been a better time nor more opportunity – especially for women – to be a sports journalist.

Q: I know so many AAPI sports fans who could talk all day like they’re on Sports Center, or think they could (my husband included!). Is there really a limited supply of Asian-American journalists, and even more broadly, Asian-Americans in general, who are interested in sports journalism?

Huang: Yes, there is. Just look around at any major sports outlet. Examining my own company, ESPN, the dearth of AAPIs is noticeable. While there are a handful of AAPI editors, managers and producers – and ESPN certainly does a better job than most at hiring AAPIs – on camera personnel and writers are easily outnumbered. In fact, there’s just two – two! – AAPI female writers at ESPN. Mina Kimes and Rachel Gu. And Rachel is actually an editor for whom writing is extra. So where there is a dearth, there’s opportunity.

Q: Is there existing sports coverage that is particularly well-represented by AAPI journalists, and any that are not so much? I’m talking specific types of sports, the NFL, college basketball, etc.

Huang: Probably the NBA, if only because the NBA has proven to be more accessible to AAPI fans and thus, more likely to produce AAPI sports journalists. I’ve said this before – in order to develop sports journalists, we need sports fans first. That is happening now and I believe we will see more in the future, but we can hasten that evolution by doing our part mentoring and encouraging young prospective sports journalists – both male and female. Conversely, the NFL has very little AAPI media representation. We have the NFL Network’s James Koh moderating one of our panels, but just, it’s pretty sparse.

Q: Tell us what AAJA means to you.

Huang: I am loathe to admit it, but it has been a very late awakening for me. Last year was my first convention and it changed how I saw my industry forever. For my entire career – and life for that matter – I pushed away my Asian heritage. I didn’t ever want to use it as a crutch, entre or conduit for me getting a job. Since I pushed it away, I never relied on anyone except myself to open doors or advocate for my skills. In turn, I never felt like I needed to help anyone. Why should I? No one helped me. But as I advanced further in my career, especially at the largest sports media company in the country, or world for that matter, I realized I had to give back.