American Broadcast Pioneers
"Casting Our Voices"
makes a pioneer broadcaster?
Guts, ability, and intelligence
- and, lots of luck.
Our Voices," was originally printed as part of the gala benefit
program by the Chinese Historical Society of America. AsianConnections.com
thanks the Chinese Historical Society of America and its author
Christopher Chow for granting special permission to reprint online
this landmark article documenting for the first time Asian American
gala benefit raised more than $183,000 towards the goal of matching
the City and County of San Francisco's half a million dollar grant.
The proceeds will be used to build a museum of Chinese American
history in San Francisco, a project that was begun more than 36
years ago and is now close to completion. To learn more about this
project to preserve this important history for future generations,
please go to the www.chsa.org
Today we have Asian American on-air reporters
in the major media markets of the United States: New York, Los Angeles,
San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Atlanta,
Honolulu, Boston, Washington D.C., Houston, Denver, Chicago, etc.
In San Francisco, each major television station has multiple
Asian Americans on-air: Heather Ishimura, Terilyn Joe, David Louie,
Kent Ninomiya, and Kristen Sze at KGO; Terrence Chung, Sue Kwon,
Vic Lee, Wendy Tokuda, Diana Yee, Linda Yee, and Emerald Yeh at
KRON-BayTV; Sharon Chin, Cynthia Gouw, Sherry Hu, Rick Quan, and
Pamela Tom at KPIX; Robert Handa, Lloyd LaCuesta, Amber Lee, John
Sasaki, Thuy Vu, and Kim Yonenaka at KTVU; Lorna Ho, Sharon Katsuda,
Janet Kim, and Arlene Sison at KNTV; Lisa Kim at KBWB; and Mei-ling
Sze who anchors the Cantonese News at KTSF-TV.
Just thirty years ago, there were none in major broadcast
news. Nowhere, no how.
That perception began to change in 1970.
When Christopher Chow debuted on KPIX Eyewitness News in November
1970, he said the station switchboard got telephone calls from curious
viewers immediately following the 6 O'Clock News. "Are
you Chinese?" one caller asked. "Yes, I am," Chow gladly
responded. Chow's proud parents also received phone calls from
friends and neighbors who said "Isn't that your son? Look at
the Chinese man on television!"
Nine years later and halfway across the country, the switchboard
at WMAQ lit up also when Linda Yu, the first Chinese American evening
news anchor in Chicago made her first appearance there. "What
is she?" one caller demanded. "How dare you put that thing
When Mario Machado first went on the air as a news reporter
in Los Angeles (KHJ, 1967), some people presumed he was Mexican,
not knowing he was born in China, his father Portuguese and his
mother Chinese. Yet he was good enough to be hired in 1968 as a
CBS network sports commentator.
For Sam Chu Lin, breaking into the radio was made possible
by his own wits - he used signed petitions from fellow students
and the presence of Chinese American stores along the river to convince
his hometown station WJPR of Greenville, Mississippi to let him
get sponsors and host his own radio show while in high school (1956).
He Anglicized his name to Sam Lin and went on the air. To get into
television, he had helped put a new public television station on
air as an announcer (KCET Los Angeles, 1965). While he was at it,
he helped launch KFWB as one of the nation's first all-news radio
station as an anchor/reporter.
The Chinese American broadcast pioneers, like all Americans
in the media, came from different walks of life - children of laundrymen,
restaurant workers, mom-and-pop shopkeepers, chop suey houses, intellectuals,
farmers, and working stiffs.
Virtually all now acknowledge that they benefited from affirmative
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