Tammy Kim, a freelance reporter and contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, brings an informed compassion and pursuit of equity to her new role as the 2021 James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professor of Journalism.
Kim’s work has appeared in the New Yorker, The Nation, Columbia Journalism Review, and the New York Review of Books, among other publications. This spring, Kim teaches the upper-level journalism seminar Writing Globalized Labor, which allows students to report on gig workers and immigrant workers. Kim, who made a transition to journalism after working as a legal services lawyer, explained that her course “mixes substantive teaching on issues of labor, incorporating labor history and law with the mechanics of journalism. It is mostly a craft class focusing on how to write an effective lead and how to structure a piece properly, supplemented with instruction in workers’ history and regulations.”
In her own work reporting on care workers and other marginalized groups, Kim described her aim as “always to put the worker’s stories front and center; to take their claims and their knowledge very seriously while still fact checking and checking in with the authorities and the people who hold power in these systems.”
When talking to students about a career in journalism, Kim emphasizes the value of freelancing skills including, “balancing many stories at once, being bold and not getting discouraged by rejection, making contacts with lots of editors across many different kinds of publications, and being very conscientious about your finances and record keeping. All of these skills that freelancers must do are really valuable skills for all young journalists to develop.”
Kim participated in a lively and informative Q & A session with President Donald P. Christian on Feb. 2, 2021 via Zoom, where she fielded audience questions. When describing her potential difficulties in persuading subjects to participate in a story, Kim explained, “In terms of earning people’s trust, I usually send them samples of my work. I talk about the background I have in social justice lawyering. I am very transparent about what exactly I intend to do in this story, who I am and where I am coming from. I think that exchange is really important – that we give a piece of ourselves to our sources so that they can be let in and also have a bit of power in the relationship.”
Kim also presented a virtual campus talk for students, faculty, staff and community members titled “We Are All Gig Workers Now” on Tuesday, April 6 at 7 p.m.
In addition to her freelance journalism work, Kim also co-hosts the “Time to Say Goodbye” podcast with colleagues Jay Caspian Kang and Andrew Liu. The podcast was born at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and provides an Asian-American perspective on current events. In discussing the origins of the podcast, Kim said, “Despite our recognition that COVID-19 originated in Asia and that Asia had epidemiological experience combatting it, the U.S. was neglectful of what people were actually doing there and best practices we might pick up which has a lot to do with our general American hubris and myopia when it comes to world affairs.” While the initial intent was to present a trans-national Asian podcast that would feature interviews with journalists working in Asia alongside exploration of U.S. policy throughout the pandemic, it has since broadened to include a variety of topics with a focus on Asia and Asian-American issues presented in an informal, chat-cast format.
Most recently, Kim and her cohosts have addressed the issues of Asian hate crimes and the Georgia mass shooting, in the episode “Interpreting the Atlanta Massacre” and by participating in a crossover with journalist Daniel Denvir’s podcast “The Dig”. The Time to Say Goodbye hosts also interviewed Naomi Murakawa, a professor of African American Studies at Princeton and the author of The First Civil Right: How Liberals Built Prison America, who shared the history of hate crimes and hate crime legislation in the United States.
Kim’s upcoming projects include a book about Korea and U.S. militarism, and a recently published profile for LUX, an online feminist magazine, on scholar and Princeton professor Keeanga Yamahtta Taylor who has been active in the Black Lives Matter movement.
The James H. Ottaway Sr. Visiting Professor of Journalism is SUNY New Paltz’s only endowed professorship. The Ottaway Visiting Professor position was established in 2000 by James H. Ottaway, Jr. ’18 HON and Mary Ottaway ’70g (Elementary Education). James H. Ottaway Sr. was a publisher of community newspapers, founded Ottaway Newspapers Inc. (formerly the Dow Jones Local Media Group) and led the American Press Institute in Reston, Va. The program brings a journalist to campus each spring for one semester, providing students the opportunity to learn from the experience of working journalists.