A taste of something new: Yejin Heo finds an unexpected outlet through journalism

Yejin Heo said it was perhaps the best mistake of her life when she was accidentally assigned to Northwood High School’s journalism class her freshman year. At that point, Heo was more interested in creating her own worlds and characters than writing for the school newspaper.  

But, it was the welcomeness of her adviser and the warm vibe of the classroom that made her decide to stay, she said. 

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“Journalism is so cool in the sense that you can explore more about what’s going on in the world you actually live in. But I think that you can always incorporate creative writing into journalism as well,” Heo said.

Since then, Heo has sat on the Student Advisory Board for HS Insider and served as a staff writer for her school’s paper, The Northwood Howler. This summer, she’ll be taking it a step further and interning for HS Insider to improve her feature writing and explore new beats.

Heo, 17, said that it actually wasn’t until her sophomore year when she joined HS Insider that she was able to explore writing styles that she cared about like feature writing. At school she writes primarily about sports or campus events, but with HS Insider she has a little bit more creative freedom. 

“It was really then that I delved into stories that were actually important to me and that I actually wanted to write about,” she said. “That’s how I really got started in journalism.”

Heo says her Korean background has also impacted the topics she’s chosen to explore in her writing, especially when it comes to the importance of Asian representation in the media.

Heo’s interest in Asian representation has allowed her to interview subjects such as “Bling Empire” star Kelly Mi Li about combating hate against Asian Americans and destigmatizing mental health in the Asian community.

She also talked to Jubilee Media founder Jason Y. Lee on a whim after watching his Youtube videos. Heo was moved to talk to him after realizing that he had not participated in many videos himself, she wanted to know the man behind the videos.

“I honestly just emailed them and they responded,” Heo said. “It was not even a professional email or anything, but they responded, and I was able to set up an interview time. It was super cool meeting the man behind everything.”

(Photo by Payton Zarceno)

Along with feature writing, Heo said she hopes to explore more creative endeavors like column writing this summer. She’s not sure which topics she’d like to cover, but she knows she wants to get started.

“She’s always had a talent and passion for writing ever since I knew her in elementary school,” said Delaney Wong who’s been friends with Heo since second grade. “It’s really exciting to see her in the more journalism aspect instead of the narrative stories we would write in like fourth grade.” 

Heo hopes to use this summer as a way to explore opportunities for her journalistic ambitions which include column writing and refining her feature writing skills. Soon, she’ll be one step closer to achieving her dreams of writing for the L.A. Times and The New York Times. 

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