Xueying Chen ’16 Follows in the Footsteps of a Pioneering Journalist

June 3, 2015
Wellesley Student Wins Prestigious Journalism Fellowship

Xueying Chen ’16, an English and economics major, didn’t plan to become a journalist when she was a first-year. She started writing for the Wellesley News, she said, “just because I wanted to give it a try.”

One story led to another, and another. Chen found that she loved the challenge of gathering and analyzing information quickly. She became a staff writer for the news section, then an editor, and by the end of her sophomore year she was named co-editor of the paper.

Last summer, she interned as a segment producer at Chicago Tonight, a daily news show hosted by PBS’s Chicago affiliate, through the Center for Work and Service Global Engagement Internships. Yet as Chen looked toward her junior year, she began to wonder if journalism was a wise career choice at a time when many media outlets are struggling to survive.

“Online audiences believe that content should be free, but that leaves organizations without a revenue source,” she said. “The print industry is dying, and other news organizations are struggling to figure out how to pay the bills. CareerCast recently ranked newspaper reporter as the worst job out of 200 jobs to have.”

Still, Chen continued to write news stories and to look for ways to be a leader in the field. In January she submitted an application to the Roy W. Howard National Collegiate Reporting Competition, named after the innovative journalist who led the Scripps Howard Newspapers from 1922-1953 and was a pioneer in journalism in Asia through both world wars. The program sends nine college students annually on a 10-day guided tour of Japan to visit media organizations as well as cultural and historical landmarks. Chen, who was studying in London last semester, said she was “in disbelief” when she learned that she’d been chosen for the program.

Chen’s journey began May 21 with trips to Kyoto, Kobe, and Hiroshima to learn about Japanese history and visit peace memorials. “It was eye-opening to speak with a survivor in Hiroshima and hear that his family survived the bombing unscathed,” said Chen, who was born in China and grew up in Seattle. “He, like many other Japanese people, harbored no antagonism against the United States.”

The group spent the rest of their time in Tokyo, where they toured bureaus of the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg Business, both of which have created successful business models that have allowed them to thrive while other news organizations have floundered. “After speaking with seasoned journalists, I have realized how much the industry has changed and how I, as a part of the new generation of journalists, must be innovative in figuring out how to finance the industry without abandoning the critical, objective role of journalism,” Chen said.

The trip provided Chen with great insights into the region’s past and present, and into her own future. In a few weeks, she will head to Cambodia to spend the summer reporting for the Phnom Penh Post, an English-language newspaper, as a MacFarqhuar International Journalism Grant recipient, through the Center for Work and Service.

“Wellesley has given me so many opportunities to cultivate my skills as a journalist, for which I am grateful,” she said. “As I move toward a career as a business reporter, I will look to Roy W. Howard and to Wellesley alums who have revolutionized the field for courage and inspiration.”