The Los Angeles based journalist has had a positive experience in the media
Liberté Chan, journalist and meteorologist for Los Angeles news channel KTLA, is proud to have had a positive experience in the media while staying true to her Asian roots to help her stand out in the industry. Resonate spoke with the Los Angeles based reporter to find out more.
Liberté Chan is a journalist and meteorologist at KTLA 5 News in Los Angeles. For those in Southern California, she has become a familiar TV personality, with an ever-growing fan base.
She is half-Asian and a living example of diversity in the media, demonstrating that if you are of Asian heritage, pursuing a career in the media is not only feasible, but may be celebrated.
Earlier this year, Chan was involved in an on-air incident that was later nicknamed #sweatergate. In the middle of Chan’s live weather report, anchor Chris Burrous handed her a black cardigan to cover up her spaghetti-strap Aidan Mattox dress after receiving viewer complaints.
The incident attracted international attention, with some critics calling the incident sexist and disrespectful. Chan took the incident with a grain of salt and harboured no hostility to the station or viewers.
Growing up as a mixed-race girl
Chan is of mixed heritage, with a Hong Kong-raised mother and Russian American father. Speaking to Resonate, Chan said she was very close to her mother, which made her even more aware of her mixed heritage at an early age,
“When I was young, I was very aware of my ethnicity because I looked more white. I was always with my mom, but because I didn’t look like her, sometimes people thought she was the nanny. I have two older brothers who look a lot more mixed and I always struggled with the fact that I didn’t look like them.”
“I was always with my mom, but because I didn’t look like her, sometimes people thought she was the nanny.”
As a child, Chan says she “felt more connected to my Asian side” because of her close relationship with her mother. When asked if she looked up to women of Asian descent, she said race wasn’t really a factor, “I looked up to professional and powerful women who embodied both style and grace.”
Turning an interest in the media into a job
Despite being a shy child, Chan was a competitive figure skater and says she “found it was easy to skate and perform in front of a crowd of people, but the thought of speaking in front of a crowd was terrifying.” But she didn’t let her fear of public speaking stop her from pursuing her dream of working in the media. She began to develop an interest in becoming a weather girl as a teenager. She says her mother supported her but suggested she keep her options open. I remember my mom telling me, “instead of being a weather girl, you could also be a reporter or even an anchor.” It was during her college years when Chan decided to pursue a career in journalism. “It really hit me that I wanted to be a writer and learn about new things and people and tell their stories. That’s when I knew I wanted to work in news.”
Chan completed her studies and graduated with a degree in Journalism from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and went on to obtain an additional degree in Broadcast Journalism from UCLA. While still in school, she interned at KTLA 5 and within 6 months, became a news writer. During that time, she enrolled in graduate school at USC’s Keck School of Medicine and obtained a Masters Degree in Public Health. At that time, her dream was to be a health reporter. While that didn’t happen, she did get a job as a General Assignment Reporter in a small market on the Central Coast. She worked her way back to KTLA as a freelance reporter in 2010 and was eventually hired on as staff. When the opportunity to work on the weather wall was presented to her, she seized the opportunity and quickly enrolled in an online meteorology program. Last year — after three years of studying — she became a certified meteorologist and graduated from Mississippi State University. “[I’m] probably way overeducated for my current job, but I love learning!” says Chan.
When asked about other Asian weather anchors on TV, Chan says, “Yes, there are a handful of other Asian meteorologists in the LA market. It’s a melting pot here in Southern California. There are Latinas, Asians, Blacks, females, males… there’s a little bit of everything.”
While some say there is lack of Asians in the media, Chan says that did not deter her from going after her dream of working in news. “When I was growing up, there weren’t a lot of Asians or half-Asians in the media, but I never thought my ethnicity would be a problem. In fact, I think it helped open up a few doors. When I was trying to break into the business, one of my mentor’s told me to ‘take your mom’s maiden name and go with Chan – that’s actually going to help you’. So I did and I’ve had a really positive experience. In Southern California we have such a vast melting pot of cultures and I think managers realize that the public wants to see diversity on-air. I think viewers want to see people they can relate to so diversity is important when it comes to hiring on-air talent.”
“When I was trying to break into the business, one of my mentor’s told me to ‘take your mom’s maiden name and go with Chan — that’s actually going to help you.”
Advice for East Asians who want to enter the media
Chan encourages those who wish to enter the media to not be deterred by any thoughts of anti-Asian racism, “If that’s your dream and that’s what you want to do, there is always a way. Persevere. It’s so much more than just race. Don’t get deterred by what other people say. Go after what you want. A lot of doors will close on you, but keep going and one of those doors will open”.
“Persevere. It’s so much more than just race”
From speaking with Chan, it is clear that she is passionate about her job and undoubtedly enjoys it. She says the best part of her job is sharing valuable information and connecting with viewers. “There are so many different platforms nowadays that allow you to connect with viewers. From Instagram to Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, I’m on social media a lot. I love hearing from viewers. Yes, some people are going to be haters… but you just have to ignore them. On the whole, I find that the majority of people have a lot of positive things to say. Social media makes this big city feel a lot smaller… and I think that’s a good thing.”
Furthermore, she particularly encourages young East Asians to enter the media to support diversity and ethnic representation.
“These days, being mixed is pretty common. It’s become the norm. Recently, I read a study that said the fastest-growing demographic are those of mixed races, like myself. I think our viewers expect and want to see people who look like them or look like their children on TV. Again, Southern California is a melting pot and who you see on-air should represent the population, so I think diversity is important.”
Chan’s story is truly inspirational and refreshingly positive. Whilst there has certainly been what seems like an endless stream of criticism towards the media and its notorious ‘whitewashing’, TV personalities such as Chan remind us that the media isn’t wholly white. If you have a dream, pursue it, no matter your race. The roles of East Asians in the media can exist beyond portraying Asian stereotypes and Liberté Chan’s successful career is proof.
As Chan says, “who you see on-air should represent the population, so I think diversity is important.”