Not Your Ordinary Sunday

Article by: Samantha Lai, freshman at UC Berkeley

For a group of people who haven’t spent a lot of time together, much less on public transit, we had a remarkably good time getting acquainted with one another and Los Angeles Times writer Rong-Gong “Ron” Lin II on our August 15 trip in Downtown LA. Time seemed to pass by so quickly, but I know I will not soon forget TACL/JIP’s exciting excursion to meet Ron Lin at the LA Times headquarters.

Ten interns met our coordinator Emily Wu at the Taiwan Center around 11 a.m., and we were all anxious to see how the trip would go. We chatted comfortably on the bus ride to Downtown LA, putting aside our doubts about riding the bus. We ate lunch at the multicultural food court, the Grand Central Market, but some of us preferred more familiar fare like that of the American fast food places across the street.

While the trip may have had a rather straightforward and reasonable premise (young journalists meeting a working professional journalist), it meant a great deal to those of us considering a career in journalism. Of course, as young Taiwanese Americans, we shared more than just an interest in journalism with Ron. Although during our trip it seemed more appropriate to ask Ron about his work rather than his personal life, the roots of our visit grew from an article he wrote about connecting with his Taiwanese background after the deaths of two relatives. It was a deeply personal account that mirrored my own experiences, and I felt moved that Ron could write about his experiences in spite of his grief. His honesty impressed me so much that I asked Emily if she could arrange for the interns a meeting with him in person, and what began as a simple proposal became reality.

While watching everyone take pictures of the giant globe in the center of the dark lobby, I marveled at the strange fact of being here, standing next to Ron as camera flashes filled the room. This feeling of wonder grew as Ron led us through the offices, quiet and mostly empty on this Sunday afternoon, but the absence of the editors and writers heightened rather than suppressed the sense that this is where the magic happens. Passing by the unoccupied desks gave the same impression one might have gazing at a piece of artwork or listening to music: while an imaginary distance hangs between you and the original maker, the painting or song still forms a connection. Meeting Ron in person gave me a similar impression. Before the trip, he was a name without a face, but nonetheless he was someone who wrote for a newspaper I grew up reading. In high school, my four years on the newspaper staff amounted to hours and pages of editing, but I still have no idea of what it takes to print a daily newspaper like LA Times. Thus, as someone who identifies with his work, I was as eager to meet Ron as an artist about to meet van Gogh.

Even though Ron was giving up his time to escort us through the offices, he answered our questions patiently and confidently. According to Ron, his journalistic background began unexpectedly with his father, a doctor who enjoyed writing and did so by sending letters to the editor of the local newspaper. Interested, Ron followed suit and wrote his own letter, albeit in English, to the China Post, thus initiating his contact with the world of journalism. He joined the newspaper staff at the Alameda High School, where the bathrooms remained in dreadfully bad condition until the newspaper ran a front page picture of fecal matter in a urinal. The change this story brought about, however small on a world scale, is an essential objective in journalism, as Ron knew from reporting on the Gulf oil spill on location in Louisiana. His job isn’t easy, but it was easy to see that Ron takes pride in his work, as he should, from his coverage of the oil spill to more local happenings in LA that affect residents. We are forever grateful for the knowledge Ron could impart to us, and we hope he enjoyed the attention.

** is proud to showcase the first of many articles written by interns from the Taiwanese American Citizens League (TACL) Journalism Internship Program. Every year, TACL works with Rosemead-based weekly newspaper, the Pacific Times, to provide talented high school students an opportunity to intern in a professional environment. The interns learn first hand the production and distribution of a newspaper and benefit from interactions with journalism professionals. In addition, the program includes attendance to community events and volunteering activities.**

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