Journalist April Xu recently joined the Documented team as Chinese Community Correspondent. As a journalist who has covered Chinese immigrants in New York over the past eight years, April Xu shares what readers can expect as she prepares to develop and launch a Documented news vertical focused on engaging with the Chinese community in New York.
What have you enjoyed most about covering Asian communities in New York, prior to joining Documented?
There is a gap between the Chinese community and mainstream society, some misunderstanding or stereotyping or myth between them. So, on one hand, I enjoy telling their stories because that way, mainstream society can get a better understanding of them. A lot of people in this community are underserved and need support and resources, including wage assistance. On the other hand, I enjoy educating the Chinese community about resources available to help them navigate the American system, because many do not know.
I remember several years ago in Chinatown, some street vendors were selling small turtles or small fishes, like pets, but the street vending permits they had were to sell vegetables or plants. They were unaware they couldn’t sell other things outside of that category, and so they got tickets.
How have you centered the immigrant experience in your work?
In 2020, I did a small media experiment. I launched my own public account on WeChat, the most popular social media platform for Chinese language speakers. A single article got 100,000+ views. Back then, I was still doing a full-time job at Sing Tao Daily, one of the largest Chinese language newspapers outside of mainland China, and I used my spare time to develop that product. The premise of the product was to educate people about Covid, because at the beginning of the pandemic, there was so much chaos, and there was an information gap between the Chinese Community and what was going on in the city.
Back in 2017, I wrote a series of articles about a blessing scam prevailing in Chinese communities in the U.S. Chinese newspapers had written stories about it, but they were all short pieces. So I dug more deeply into it, asked victims about their experiences, and interviewed a detective who was in charge of investigating the scam in New York City, and he told me how sophisticated the scam was. I did some research about why Chinese immigrants were vulnerable to such scams, which happened to be because of some cultural factors. I also interviewed scholars and elected officials about potential solutions. It ended up being a two-page story, and won the Best Investigative/In-Depth Story of the 2018 Ippies Awards. NYPD data later showed that the scam drastically decreased in New York City.
Another major immigration story I did was a journalism health care project where I met several undocumented immigrants with cancer or very severe diseases. They didn’t go to the hospital for annual physical checks or receive timely treatment because they thought they were not eligible for any health care because of their immigration status. Also, there are a lot of barriers for them to receive health care. I feel like if there are more media platforms reporting such things, then, maybe healthcare coverage for all can pass, and it can prevent some unnecessary deaths.
What’s the next step with the Chinese vertical you are working on at Documented?
We are launching a Chinese news product, and we’ll be speaking directly to readers and Chinese immigrants and working with them in a survey. We are really trying to offer them products that meet their needs: if they have any difficulties, or questions regarding immigration policies, legal issues, or public benefit programs, this will be a very great channel for them to contact us, and we will try to find answers for them. I’m finding my new role very exciting as I believe there is some potential to develop an excellent product to meet the needs of Chinese immigrants.
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