DETROIT—The well-established and well-connected Asia Pacific American Chamber of Commerce (APACC) has never lacked for inspiring speakers at its annual dinner parties. This year, for its eighth annual party, APACC was honored to have Richard Lui, prominent news anchor for HLN, formerly CNN Headline News.
Mr. Lui's work experience prior to becoming a journalist spans five industries, ranging from startups in manufacturing to New York consulting and banking at Citibank. He also founded a mobile banking project at his last job with Citibank.
“I did have a choice, I could have gone back to the New York consulting job with an average pay at the time of $150K, or take a loss to accept a journalist position in Singapore for $15K,” Richard said, recollecting his big moment, “That's a difference of $135,000. To many Asians, and especially their families, it makes no sense for me to jump into journalism. But I have always wanted to do journalism ever since I was a kid watching Tom Brokaw. I was at the right age of 36, and was given this opportunity.”
At CNN Headline News, he has anchored live coverage of major breaking stories, including the Virginia Tech shooting, the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict, the Mumbai train terrorist bombings and the Enron guilty verdicts.
Bur for most Asian Americans, and especially Chinese Americans, he is best known not only as the first Asian male correspondent who has won a prime time news anchor spot on CNN Headline News, but also for his reporting with the Channel NewsAsia in Singapore, where he anchored live rolling coverage of the South Asian Tsunami, and the 2003 SARS and bird flu outbreak in China and the surrounding regions.
In 2004, he broke the story on the shooting of Taiwan's president which took place during that country's national election. It was a time of political instability in the Far East Asian region. His highly regarded experience and skills as an English language journalist and news anchor in Singapore landed him a prime time news anchor position with CNN.com and eventually CNN Headline News.
How did he do it? “It is the human story, stories about people, the universal that tells we are human, we care, we can achieve, that we fail and we can be better.”
Richard recalled the events that touched him, both as a person and reporter. “During the SARS outbreak, those who died, they were bundled up, quarantined, buried or cremated before their wives, daughters and sons were able to see them, as soon as they had SARS diagnosis. These stories are important to all Asians at the time, and universal to all of us. It is a challenge to journalists to bring this universality of stories to the world.”
The Geo-political environment also plays a role in journalist functions. Most notably in countries such as China, where there is a government media censorship. Richard shared his experiences, “You have to deal with the Information Officer and follow the protocol in that country. But the reporting process is same. You work your sources, follow up, plan accordingly, and if needed verify the data with the second and third parties.”
Now that there is a prominent Asian male news anchor on CNN Headline News, it provides encouragement for many younger Asian Americans to pursue a journalism career. Mr. Lui had these words of encouragement for young people, “Don't think about constraints, don't think what your parents say you have to do—this or that. While you are in school, go explore what is dynamic and interesting to you. Later, if you want to be a journalist, astronaut or coal miner, go do it. If you want to be a journalist and a doctor, do both! Don't just think what has been done in the past, do what you want to do!”