Category Archives: News on News

Writing in Seattle Mag about Punjabi pot farmers

My story on a family of Punjabi Indian immigrants who are farming (legal) marijuana in Bellingham, Washington, is featured in April’s issue of Seattle Magazine. The article is a big accomplishment for me on several ways, not the least of which is having it be published in a glossy magazine that is so well designed.

I worked as an intern at Seattle Magazine when I was in college, around the time I first began thinking of journalism as a potential career. I was introduced to newspaper writing in high school and wrote for my college paper, but it wasn’t until my time at Seattle Magazine that I got to see how a professional publication came together. I remember admiring the glossy issues and looking at the bios of the writers, wondering if maybe I’d be able to write a magazine article worthy of printing one day. Appearing in that exact magazine over a decade later feels so rewarding!

When I moved to Seattle, I also set an intention to cover more stories about the American immigrant experience, which is near and dear to my heart and speak to my personal experience. When my friend told me about the Singh family’s pot farm, I thought it so perfectly encapsulated an aspect of the American dream: Surjit Singh was a farmer in Punjab, India, but he left that behind soon after arriving in the U.S. to pursue financial gain and stability for his family. He owned a video rental store and a gas station that he turned into an Indian grocery in order to make it. But he had always loved farming, and it was the legalization of marijuana in Washington state that brought him back to his roots. What a roundabout way of achieving the American dream, and all through a still-controversial substance that he himself does not use!

It’s quite the story, and I do hope you’ll give it a read.

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Filed under News on News, The Marginalized

A more personal article

American journalism schools teach reporters to put their own biases aside. That’s a cornerstone of how we report. We want to be open to all perspectives, weigh each side, and let the reader come to their own conclusions about what we cover.

Enter the era of fake news and Internet memes and advertorial and native advertising. Where are we headed? It’s a mystery that many of us trying to figure out. But one thing that seems evident is that there has been a shift in how readers/viewers perceive the neutrality stance that journalists hold to be sacred. Many are skeptical and believe that bias still finds its way into the news, and that pretending that it is unbiased is itself a lie. I for one think this raises some great questions for news professionals and we will be better for all the self-evaluation and rumination that we are undergoing right now.

On a personal level, I decided to take a leap of faith and try something new. After President Trump was elected, I had a lot of feelings about the divisiveness of the country, the political rhetoric about Muslims, and how me and my family fit into all of that.

I proposed to my editor at KCTS 9, the PBS affiliate in Seattle, a story about how Muslim parents are talking to their young kids about the political shift. Surely, the increase in hate crimes and mosque vandalism might be prompting concerns about playground bullying.

During the Iraq war, I remember my baby brother, then in middle school, being called a terrorist. And I also remember trying to get his vice principal to take action, and her dismissing it as the “harmless” bullying that goes on in those years of schooling. We have grown a lot in our understanding of bullying and its dangers since then, but the threat seems as real today to many parents.

My editor saw through my pitch, noting the very personal nature of the idea, and asked me to write it as a personal essay rather than simply report what others are doing. The result was an article that is a mix of my personal confessions around the topic, along with really valuable input from other parents and therapists on how to cope with the challenges of talking to young children about hate, racism and the darker sides of our society. It was particularly challenging because I am so private about my faith. It took a lot for me to admit where I stand and how I’m parenting my children, as I know that many in my community have thoughts on what is the right way to raise Muslim children. That being said, I felt so supported by the others parents I interviewed, who were open and vulnerable about their own struggles. And I have felt so supported since this article published, by my Muslim community and my community of journalists — many of whom welcomed such an open dialogue on a difficult topic.

I have several Muslim friends at esteemed news organizations such as NPR and Guardian US who covered the Trump campaign, and they too have written personal essays about what it felt like to be a Muslim in that role. I think that being so bravely honest in this era where the truth is becoming harder to sniff out is refreshing and reminds us all of our humanity — the ways in which we’re all connected and all the same. There isn’t that much that differentiates us; we just get hung up on all the differences.

Please give the piece a read, and share your thoughts.

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Filed under News on News, Politics

Write, cook, repeat.

Food and journalism. Two disparate passions of mine that I have long tried to balance on this blog. I’ve tried to limit my posts on the home page to items about cooking, leaving the menu links to speak for my work as a reporter. After all, a page that is sometimes about shrimp curry and sometimes about marijuana legalization can be a bit confusing.

Imagine my excitement, then, when I finally published an article about food! Here it is, folks. Food and journalism combined:

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That little story was so fun, and so tasty, to write. I got to sample the cardamom black pepper ice cream, and it was delicious! Check out the full piece.

That’s just one of the many freelance pieces I have written since leaving CQ Roll Call in August. I continue to write about politics and tech, but I’ve also done an in-depth piece for a magazine on global education initiatives that are changing our world. I’ve written about the streetcars rolling into D.C., and about the Italian government’s effort to pull the Costa Concordia cruise liner out of the Mediterranean. And I’m doing a regular series on Washington-area graduate programs, including this piece on the rising trend of online courses.

I have also been staying busy in the kitchen. I’ve taught a few classes at Just Simply … Cuisine, including one on South Asian cuisine with recipes similar to those on this blog. Have you been cooking? I have, and I’m looking forward to share more tasty nuggets with you soon.

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Filed under Feed Me, News on News

Caught on CNN’s cameras

I was watching CNN at the gym last night (yes, I’m a nerd) when I saw my face pop up in the background of Dana Bash’s piece on the new Senate tea party caucus. I was there covering it (see my piece here), and I ended up in four separate shots in the segment.

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Filed under News on News

Media types and Jon Stewart

I just read a survey about my former Seattle Post-Intelligencer colleagues. As you know, 140 of them lost jobs earlier this year when Hearst killed the paper and turned the newsroom online-only with 18 jobs.

The survey reflects what I have heard from people as well. Most are filing for unemployment and waiting for jobs to turn up. It’s hard to find work when 100 people just as qualified as you are also looking for jobs in writing … in Seattle. The city has only so many communications and journalism jobs. Just a few months ago, I saw that the Seattle Times was hiring two reporters. It was cause to rejoice, especially in a climate where most newsroom are laying off people. But two jobs are hardly anything in the face of such rampant joblessness.

Meanwhile, thought-provoking piece from Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News on Jon Stewart and today’s media coverage. This statement especially gave me pause:

Tear down this wall…of pretending that the media itself isn’t a major player in American society, and isn’t a factor in most big stories.

It’s true that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are among the few mainstream outlets that are watching the watchdogs. Is media slacking off by not better policing itself, or is it someone else’s job to provide that coverage? I find the topic intriguing, and will post more as I continue my research.

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Filed under News on News

Journalism and Twitter Lists

Mashable did a really interesting round-up of how news organizations are using Twitter lists to serve up and organize content.

Lists are a really big deal. They have the potential to really transform Twitter into a useful tool for a variety of purposes, as the piece points out. Yesterday, CNN provided a feed that provided coverage of the November 3 elections from multiple sources. ESPN is using the feature similarly to provide World Series coverage. The New York Times has compiled a list of its tweeting staff so that fans can read the latest messages from all their favorite reporters.

Journalism is certainly evolving because of social media. I just learned of a new venture, AskYourLawmaker.org, that lets readers submit questions that journalists then ask of DC lawmakers. It’s really genius because the site uses social media technology to make mass media a two-way street. It’s a lot easier to call up the local paper than to get an ear at the New York Times. But with this tool, you can get the same clout you have locally in Washington.

I’d be interested in seeing what other news ventures are trying to use technology to update the industry. Sometimes we focus too much on the monetizing aspect — it’s important, I know — instead of the great potential to improve our field with tools like Twitter lists.

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Filed under News on News