I once got in a fight with the New York Mets. It was March 2014 and I was covering baseball’s spring training in Florida. One morning in the locker room, I was chatting with the Japanese American interpreter for a Japanese pitcher when the Mets pitching coach interrupted us.
“I’m sorry I called you a Chinaman,” the coach said to the translator. “I didn’t mean to insinuate — I know you’re not Chinese. I thought it was a pretty good joke, though.”
I was too startled to say anything right then. After the coach left, I tried to have a normal day, but his words looped through my head.
I realized, reluctantly, that I felt obligated to write (for non-subscribers, sign up for a 24-hour “guest pass” that enables you to read articles on WSJ.com) about the coach’s racial slur. I say reluctantly because, well, have you ever read internet comments for articles about race? It also didn’t help that the interpreter didn’t want me to write about it.
But the guilt I would’ve felt if I didn’t write about the slur won. How would I feel if I spent my childhood dreaming of working in baseball, only to encounter casual slurs in the big leagues? At the very least, I would’ve wanted a heads up.
I asked a Mets spokesman if I could speak with the coach. The spokesman declined and, before I knew it, we were arguing in the middle of the locker room. Only after I published a story about the slur did the coach and team email a statement, which included an apology.
Sorry, I know this is kind of a bummer for a celebratory tribute. (Happy 25th birthday, Chips Quinn Scholars!) I could focus on the good stuff the program gave me: my first daily newspaper internship, the weeklong training course and the nonstop M&Ms at said course.
That internship, at The Providence Journal, helped me get a job at The Wall Street Journal, where during the past eight years I covered Arnold Schwarzenegger’s governorship, the rise of Amazon.com’s Jeff Bezos, the 2012 Summer Olympics and three Super Bowls. In February, I moved to London to fulfill my twin fantasies of working as a foreign correspondent and eating crumpets.
But as that morning in Florida showed, sometimes the job isn’t fun. Two days later, my article hit the internet, and I got a flood of tweets. Some were supportive. Backing from my editor, colleagues and sympathetic peers, such as the ones I met through Chips Quinn, helped ease the storm.
Chips Quinn Scholars and similar programs diversify news organizations so they can publish stories that might otherwise go untold, especially those that have far more impact than mine. America is getting more diverse, but the American Society of News Editors’ annual diversity survey shows that newsrooms haven’t kept pace.
On this 25th anniversary of Chips Quinn Scholars, I hope the program outlives us all.
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