Alumna Kat Chow says “I wanted to try it all,” lands job with NPR

ChowAlumna Katelin (Kat) Chow (B.A., 2012) did it all in college – Foreign Intrigue internship in Cambodia, freelancing, part-time jobs, co-founded a news-magazine show at The Daily that airs across the state, more than 10 local internships, UW Election Eye, the honors program – and she hasn’t looked back. Since graduating, Chow has made her way to becoming an apprentice digital journalist with Code Switch, NPR’s race, ethnicity, and culture reporting team.

“I just feel really lucky,” Chow said. “Sure, I think that being motivated helped me, but a lot of it was luck. I’m so humbled by that, every day.”

Although the long list of accomplishments is extremely impressive, Chow admits that it wasn’t always easy and that sometimes she turned to her mentors for advice. During the last part of her senior year Chow was interning for The Seattle Times and at the same time, while partaking in UW Election Eye, writing a weekly food truck column for The Seattle Weekly, and finishing up her honors thesis and working part-time.

“I remember there was this tough moment during winter quarter of that year,” Chow said. “I’d just gotten broken up with and I was sitting in my honors thesis advisor’s office, stuffing my face with Snickers, upset because I was so overwhelmed and had no idea what post-college life was going to look like. The uncertainty was terrifying.”

While wondering what the point of it all was, her advisor Leilani Nishime said, “You know, Kat, you’ll be fine.” Chow figured out she needed to “just roll with everything, go somewhere new, and try something different,” and in that moment she decided to apply for the Foreign Intrigue program.

Chow said she pushed herself to seek out many opportunities not necessarily for the sake of having a lot of things to put on her resume, but because she had no idea what she wanted to do after graduation.

“I knew that I loved journalism and that I loved writing, but I was so indecisive about what that job was going to look like,” Chow said. “So I wanted to try it all.”

Before her position at NPR, Chow worked in Boston at WGBH, a PBS and NPR station, helping produce a local television news show. While she thought she would be there for a while, she could not pass up the offer to work with Code Switch after a long, intense interview process.

“I absolutely just couldn’t turn it down,” Chow said. “It felt like a dream. It still does.”

Her role at Code Switch is to report and tell stories about race, ethnicity, and culture using social media to spark conversation online and via the blog. While consuming as much news as possible, Chow attempts to strike up genuine conversation with her readers and reach new audiences.

“The neat thing about Code Switch is that we’re trying to have a definite voice within NPR,” Chow said. “We make talking about race (hopefully) enjoyable. We want to be fun, but we also want to be smart. So far, it’s been a blast, and I’m really digging D.C. in general.”

Moving across the country wasn’t all that difficult as she is originally from Connecticut, a state she had no intentions to stay in, and was excited to try new things. She said she always comes across people who know Seattle journalists, who take her under their wings, making the journalism industry feel small.

While she doesn’t know where she will be in five or 10 years, Chow wants to continue producing good journalism, in whatever form that takes. At Code Switch she is able to tap into her journalism training and ethnic studies.

“I think I was really lucky in that both my area of study wound up really preparing me for my current job,” Chow said. “I couldn’t have dreamed up a better fit.”

She said one of her biggest accomplishments so far was a post on a documentary about Asian fetishes because it sparked a lot of discussion. She also wrote about the memes created around Charles Ramsey, the neighbor who heard Amanda Berry’s cry for help in Ohio after being kidnapped for ten years, and was recently a guest on her favorite NPR podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour. But “I think the actual highlight of my career is being lucky enough to cover the types of issues that I’ve always wanted to,” Chow said.