It didn’t hit him right away, but the journalism bug bit Tandy Lau early enough.

“I got it my sophomore year of college,” said the Amsterdam News’ newest Report for America corps member who will be covering public safety. “Before then, I was figuring out what I wanted to do. I was studying Asian American Studies and kind of just picked it up, you know?”

Lau was born and raised on “Ventura Boulevard,” he said, which is right around the San Fernando Valley in California. He said the location of his upbringing was the catalyst for his personality and thought processes.

“You look south [of Ventura]: it’s mansions. You look north: it’s bungalows. It’s apartment buildings. It’s factory warehouses, right?” said Lau. “So I think because of that, you get to see both sides of LA.”
But what made him want to work specifically for a historically Black newspaper that caters to a predominantly Black audience?

“I think the idea of being able to write to a specific audience and being able to tell specific stories, and to advocate for specific issues is something I’ve always wanted,” said Lau. That’s part of Lau’s agenda: wanting to tell stories no matter whose stories they are. He wants what all journalists want: to inform the people. “It’s a cool way to live, right?” said Lau to the AmNews.

Lau’s journey took him from California to New York City where he studied at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and contributed to Character Media, an Asian American publication. But as Lau progressed academically, he wanted to make sure his light of hope didn’t dim as it did with other people he saw.

“The last year, working late, you know, going to grad school where everyone is a little bit idealistic and optimistic and likely to stand for stuff,” said Lau. “But even then, I think there’s a lot of…apprehension about wanting to really advocate for somebody through your journalism … There’s the idea that you’re not being objective, and not being balanced and amplifying voices. I often feel almost pressured to do that in a legacy newsroom.”

This fits in perfectly with Report for America’s ethos. Report for America (RFA) is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities. Last year Ariama C. Long, who covers politics, joined the AmNews as its first RFA corps member. RFA supports local newsrooms by paying for a portion of corps members salaries and helping publications to raise the rest.

But where does “objectivity” end and “advocacy” begin for Lau? For him, it may be that those things are not exclusive.

“I think they see it more as advocacy journalism, when in fact [it’s] the kind of journalism that they’re [kind of] pushing that could be advocacy,” Lau said about the mainstream media. “It could be, you know, a form of advocacy journalism towards an upper middle class.”

On a much lighter note, the AmNews asked Lau about the first time he saw snow, since he is from the West Coast. He shared a feeling people who see snow regularly feel: “I think it was less intense than I thought it was,” Lau said. “And then…when you get deeper into December, January and February, that’s when…let’s just say it’s [not] a total coincidence that that was when I really got good at sending emails. There were less men and women on the street stories,” said Lau laughing about the winter and the challenge it presents for finding people to interview.

Report for America is paying half of Tandy’s salary and the AmNews is asking the community to help raise the other half by making a tax deductible donation here:

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