Q&A: Jin Ding on how collaboration creates inclusive and supportive journalism

Jin Ding learned the value of collaboration by working for nearly a decade at the Pulitzer Center and International Women’s Media Foundation, where partnering with journalists and publications was the name of the game.

Jin Ding. Photo courtesy of Jin Ding.

Recently, Ding started as a program manager for news partnerships at AP. Ding is also the VP of Finance for the Asian American Journalists Association and a co-founder of Chinese Storytellers, a professional group for Chinese journalists around the world.

We caught up with Ding to chat about how collaboration works in all of these roles — and why it’s vital for making journalism more supportive and inclusive.

WF: What do you do in your new role at AP?

JD: My job on news partnerships is to build foundation relationships and work within AP to guide our editors and journalists to think about how they can use grants and collaborations. We see grants as a way to help us innovate and expand — and encourage us to try things that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

For example, we have new platforms like StoryShare, which AP members can use to share content. So, how do we help our members use this product and collaborate with each other? What support do they need to localize the reporting?

If they are telling us they don’t have money to fund a whole data team, then maybe it is our responsibility to actually figure out how to set up a structure so they can localize the data we produce. It’s not only a one-way street of our members coming to us and helping us do things, it’s really about how we can create a situation where both of us can help each other.

WF: You’re also very involved with the Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA). How does AAJA think about collaboration?

JD: Organizations like AAJA really allow journalists of color to find a place to talk with each other. Many of them are probably the only Asian in their entire newsroom, and being able to hear from other people in other newsrooms is incredible.

After the Atlanta shooting, we showed how powerful the AAJA network could be. We’ve hosted multiple listening and discussion sessions for our members and so much emotion came out of those meetings.

Some members want to advocate for themselves in the newsroom and don’t know how, where others are very experienced or are managers — and they can coach each other and tell each other how it can be done. It’s so important to validate each other’s feelings and understand that the trauma is normal. The network was able to provide that.

At the same time, the core of AAJA is supporting newsroom diversity and amplifying AAPI voices and making sure they’re heard in journalism. If we don’t collaborate with each other, there’s no way we can move the needle.

I was also recently listening to AAJA’s panel with NABJ (National Association for Black Journalists) about how both of our communities can work together. We need those kinds of collaboration between our groups and communities, too.

WF: What are some of the AAJA programs you’re most excited about?

JD: One of the projects that I coalesced is the mental wellness program. We started in January, before the Atlanta shootings, and it just happened to be so timely. We have really grown the program and secured funding for 2 to 3 years already.

We have licensed mental health professionals lead our listening and discussion sessions. After the Capitol riots in January, we talked about how we’re feeling as journalists and how we can process this together. We also did sessions on grief after COVID, as we lost a lot of members and our loved ones.

Often we can all feel very lonely, especially working from home, and if you’re on a team where no one actually knows about AAPI issues then it’s very difficult to process these things on your own. But we have AAJA members encouraging each other and it’s really supportive.

WF: You also founded a collaborative network called Chinese Storytellers. How did that come together?

JD: A group of Chinese journalists in the US started this. We all felt that our careers had a similar path and struggles. There hasn’t really been a good example in front of us in the past about how you can survive and climb up the ladder in the industry.

We now have hundreds of members in the US, Asia, Europe, and even Australia. We share resources with each other and read or watch each other’s work. We’ve created a space for each other to ask questions and highlight work, or explain how you did this or got that job. There’s a slack channel, monthly gathering, Twitter account, and monthly newsletter.

WF: How exactly does Chinese Storytellers provide support to journalists?

For example, one of the most popular Slack channels is called immigration. All of us face the same problem of trying to figure out, ‘I graduated from school and now I need to change my visa to a work visa — how do I even talk about this with my future employer?’ The question might be so simple: when do I even bring this up in an interview?

Americans don’t think about it, but for us, this is the first thing that comes to mind — should we even apply for that job because we don’t know if they’ll sponsor our visa. So we have a channel to share immigration lawyer numbers, talk about applying for visas, that’s the kind of community we’re building there.

We have a lot of journalists who are now staff journalists in the US, and there are new members coming to me and saying, ‘I was really depressed after graduating from college, and then I found you guys. I didn’t even know it was possible that you could be a staff journalist at the New York Times and be Chinese.’ That is actually possible — we have members who have done that.

Being there for each other is my motivation behind getting involved in AAJA and co-founding this group for a Chinese professional network. I really see us making a lot of progress in the last couple of years. Before there wasn’t a pipeline, but now I can see it.

WF: Overall, how do you view collaboration in your work?

JD: I think collaboration is a fundamental part of journalism. The entire industry is shifting a lot and there is almost no organization that can confidently say, ‘I can do everything on my own.’ Everyone is relying on each other.

Most of all, I think collaboration is really fun. I like to say that a lot of my job is matchmaking — I’m just a matchmaker bringing the right people and organizations together.

👋 Want to learn more about collaborative journalism?

You can subscribe to our collaborative journalism newsletter for more updates and information. And of course, we invite you to visit collaborativejournalism.org to learn more about the topic of collaborative journalism — including our growing database of collaborative journalism projects, which is currently being updated.

Will Fischer is a journalist covering the intersection of technology and media. He’s worked for Business Insider and New York magazine, and conducted local news research for City Bureau. Follow Will on Twitter @willfisch15 or email him at willfisch15@gmail.com.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism and support an informed society in New Jersey and beyond. The Center is supported with funding from Montclair State University, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab (a partnership of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, and Community Foundation of New Jersey), and the Abrams Foundation. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.

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An initiative of the School of Communication at Montclair State University

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Will Fischer

Will Fischer

I write about collaborative journalism and local media ecosystems. Follow me on Twitter @willfisch15 or email me at willfisch15@gmail.com.

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