Young Local Journalists Discuss the Future of the Filipino Narrative

by Lizette Nolasco

The Filipino community makes up a large portion of the melting pot of Hawaii—more than 23% of the state’s population, according to statistics from the latest U.S. Census Bureau. Yet their stories often go untold. In an effort to amplify their voices, some young local Filipinos have turned to journalism.

Journalism is a field that is rarely encouraged to Filipino students as an option for a career path and is frequently overshadowed by other and often higher-paying careers. However, this pathway allows stories from the Filipino community to be told by members of their own.

Emily Cristobal, currently a digital content producer at Hawaii News Now, reflected on her decision to pursue a career in journalism.

Cristobal, 23, who went to school in Waipahu until the 8th grade but lived in Mililani, recalled a conversation with her peers about their plans after graduating from Punahou in 2017.

Her classmates questioned her desire to major in journalism since it was seen as an unfamiliar profession in their community. However, despite their reaction, she graduated with honors from Emerson College in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and worked in Boston and local Hawaii media, including at KHON2 News.

Based on her various media experience in print and broadcast, she highlighted the importance of having a Filipino-centered newspaper and educating future Filipino journalists.

“When you have Filipino journalists or Filipinos talking about Filipino topics that affect our own ethnicity, our own community, I think it does make people care more about it,” Cristobal said.

“It makes you feel like, wow, they know what they’re talking about. They’ve lived through it too, and they can really be a voice for me… This is someone who can really make a change and make our voices be heard.”

A newspaper meant for Filipino audiences can bring a sense of community by reporting on matters that impact its specific group of readers. These topics have the capacity to educate, validate and celebrate the accomplishments of the community.

Albert Respicio, also 23, explained that representation is essential within the Filipino population, especially having a newspaper highlighting the achievements of their culture.

The recent communication graduate of Chaminade University from Ewa Beach gave an example of the recent winner of the Miss Universe pageant who is a Filipina-American. He explained that R’Bonney Gabriel’s win on Jan. 15 was the highlight of conversation in his household and community.

“My sister was talking about it; my mom was talking about it,” Respicio said. “And that’s something that, as a Filipino, I should be proud of. But it’s hard to recognize your own culture when you don’t see it, when you don’t feel represented in many ways that a lot of other cultures are now being recognized. When you see them [successful Filipinos] on the screen or in the paper with their names that are like our names, that’s impactful. That inspires the next generation of kids who want to be just like them, if not more.”

Educating those in the community about journalism is another step toward achieving representation. Aubree Campbell, a 23-year-old communications senior from Kaneohe, was a staff writer for The Silversword, Chaminade’s student publication.

Campbell attributed her experience writing for the online paper to giving her valuable lessons and respect for the field. She encouraged the education of more Filipino students interested in studying journalism.

“It’s a very strict discipline,” Campbell said.

“Deadlines are so important. You need to be organized, you need to get the information correct, and it gives you a lot of appreciation for those actually in the field. It pushes you to be on top of things and helps you work under pressure. You have to use words efficiently and effectively. You’re not just writing fluff all over the place. There’s a point to everything, and I think it’s amazing. It’s important that everyone learns more about their culture and what’s happening in their community.”

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