A Chicago Maroon veteran finds her voice.
Growing up in Pittsburgh as the daughter of immigrants from China, Marina Fang had always liked writing but hadn’t considered a journalism career, because “I didn’t know anyone who looked like me who was doing it.”
Today, as a national reporter covering the intersection of politics and culture for HuffPost, Fang, AB’15, has a platform to shape the ways Asian American people see themselves—and the ways others see them. Never was that opportunity bigger than when it came time to plan the publication’s features highlighting Asian Pacific American Heritage Month in May. Fang, who took the lead, knew what she wanted.
She has written about anti-Asian racism and is well aware of the struggles of Asian Americans now and in the past, but as she thought about it, “the ideas I kept coming back to were just things like joy and celebration and empowerment and resilience,” Fang says. “I really did not want to do a series that was directly about the fear and the trauma of these times.”
Like any underrepresented group, Asian Americans have experienced violence throughout US history, which increased with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The issue drew heightened national attention when six women of Asian descent were among eight people killed in a mass shooting in Atlanta this March. In response, Fang and her fellow HuffPost writers leaned further into the idea of celebration.
What emerged was Asian Americans Out Loud, a collection of nine stories and an introductory essay about individuals “leading the way forward in art and activism.” There’s a story about Celine Song and her play Endlings, which depicts Korean women who make a living diving for seafood. Another features the creators of Jiangshi: Blood in the Banquet Hall, a Dungeons and Dragons–like board game where players battle racism, economic hardship, and vampires. There are also stories on Asian American intersectional activists working for Black reparations and disability rights.
The stories don’t shy away from challenges facing the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, especially since the onset of the pandemic. But Fang also describes the stories and the work of the artists and activists they feature as “evergreen.”
“We should be allowed to be our whole selves and express our whole selves,” Fang says, “whether it’s the subjects in these stories or the writer.”
In some ways the series, for which Fang wrote one story plus the introductory essay, is a milestone she’s been working toward since her days at the Chicago Maroon. Starting out as a reporter and eventually becoming news editor, Fang estimates she spent 40 hours a week in the newsroom in the basement of Ida Noyes: “Basically, all I did was go to class”—she majored in public policy and international studies—“and go to the Maroon.” She called the experience “a fantastic way to learn how to be a journalist.”
An Institute of Politics–sponsored internship at HuffPost the summer before her fourth year resulted in a job there after graduation. Fang started out covering breaking political news—a wild ride in the lead-up to and aftermath of the 2016 presidential election.
“Every hour there’s a new thing to cover,” she says. “And every hour, it was like the thing you covered the previous hour was no longer relevant or had completely changed.”
Fang longed for a role that would allow her to contextualize events rather than just react to them. She continued to cover breaking news but worked on some stories that took a longer view, combining her interests in politics and culture to look at each through the lens of the other. When one of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein’s accusers attended the 2020 State of the Union address as a guest of a Massachusetts congresswoman sponsoring a bill limiting the use of employee nondisclosure agreements, Fang was the obvious choice to write the story.
She has written about Hollywood’s perpetuation of Asian stereotypes, and, for the Asian Americans Out Loud series, about Welcome to Chinatown, a nonprofit founded in March 2020 to support small businesses in the New York City neighborhood. And while she writes frequently for HuffPost’s Asian Voices section, there is no expectation that everything she writes fits there. For example, in a rumination on the limited HBO series Mare of Easttown she grappled with her feelings about watching police shows in today’s world—even as she really wanted to find out how Mare would solve the crime.
“I’m figuring out a way to assert myself as an Asian American journalist and use that as an asset in my reporting,” Fang says, “but also not be defined by that.”
A watershed moment in that process was a story she wrote in 2019 about the movie The Farewell. She interviewed director Lulu Wang, but since the movie was about a US-raised daughter of Chinese immigrants, Fang also talked about the film’s resonances with her own life. After praising the story, her editor offered some advice: “You don’t have to just write about movies by Asian American filmmakers or TV by Asian American filmmakers. You should be able to write about anything.”
As a result, Fang felt emboldened to pursue any story that interested her, but also to keep her own perspective and voice.
“I don’t really believe in the idea of objectivity and being unbiased,” she says. “I think more about: Are you being fair? Are you being accurate? Are you being authentic? Are you telling somebody’s story with care?”
Sam Levine, AB’14, a former editor of Fang’s at the Maroon, then a colleague at HuffPost before moving on to the Guardian, notes Fang’s curiosity, composure on deadline, and command of Twitter, among other skills. He was surprised when Fang once told him that a journalism career never occurred to her until well into college. “She was so natural, I had just assumed she had lots and lots of experience,” he says.
Fang wants to help younger writers see themselves as professionals, which is why she tries to help Maroon staffers following in her footsteps and volunteers with Girls Write Now, where she currently mentors an Asian American high school student interested in writing. She wants her mentee “to understand that people who look like us, we can be journalists or writers or do creative things.”