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Saturday, May 18, 2024

We want a seat at the table

I'm a part of the just 1.76% of the Asian population in Pensacola

Opinions generic
Opinions generic

As an Asian American with a white mother and a Filipino father, I have always struggled with my identity. 

At first glance, most people I’ve met don’t realize I’m an Asian American, which led to my desire to embrace my Filipino identity. It pushed me to learn more about that side of my heritage.

It was something I was proud to represent in my accomplishments, such as graduating high school and attending UF. 

However, I always questioned my place in things. I always grew up around predominantly white people, which made it harder for me to lean on Asian American role models. In Pensacola where I grew up, I am part of just 1.76% of the Asian population in the city, according to the World Population Review.

I always wondered if my voice as an Asian American was being underutilized. 

I learned to embrace my individuality and adjusted as I grew older, but I was met with another identity crisis when I began my journalism career at UF. 

I felt like the black sheep of the Asian side of my family. 

I’ve always felt like I have needed to live up to a certain expectation, like studying a major that would provide more secure jobs. 

There have been countless times when I’ve felt silly explaining how my job is writing about sports and that my pay could always be better when everyone else in my family has their futures secured. 

The underrepresentation in sports journalism doesn’t help that either. 

English-speaking Asian American journalists make up about just 1% of the U.S. journalists who cover sports beats, according to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey

It’s easy for me to look at incredible sports journalists like ESPN’s Mina Kimes or Meadowlark Media’s Pablo Torre and see two great role models and aspire to be like them. But when I look around the rest of the country, it can be disheartening at first. 

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This only pushes me to work harder. There should be more Asian Americans in journalism and sports journalism alike. Diverse voices bring the best coverage, and that cannot happen until more members of the AAPI community are in positions to tell stories people want to hear. 

With each semester I spend at The Alligator, I see more and more Asian American journalists join the staff. Our editor-in-chief, Jiselle Lee, and I are making history as the first two Asian American managing editors to be a part of staff in the same semester, to my knowledge. 

Seeing this in a student newsroom in the cramped corner of the Gainesville Sun makes me optimistic about the future of AAPI voices in journalism and in newsrooms across the U.S. 

My hope is that a small percentage of Asian Americans in sports journalism grows every year. I hope to be a part of that percentage. And as it grows, I hope I feel just a little less silly telling the Asian side of my family what I do for work and that a job that is important and not easy gets the recognition it deserves in the AAPI community. 

Jackson Reyes is the Digital Managing Editor of the Independent Florida Alligator.

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Jackson Reyes

Jackson Reyes is a UF journalism senior and The Alligator's Fall 2023 Sports Editor. He previously served as Digital Managing Editor and was a reporter and assistant editor on the sports desk. In his free time, he enjoys collecting records, long walks on the beach and watching Bo Nix.

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