Kenny Yum will be the first recipient of the Digital Publishing Leadership Award, produced by the National Magazine Awards Foundation.
This story was funded by the J-Source Patreon campaign
By Sandrinette M. Maniania
On June 1, 2017, Kenny Yum will be the first recipient of the Digital Publishing Leadership Award, presented by the National Magazine Awards Foundation.
The managing editor of HuffPost Canada for the past six years, Yum’s dedication to quality journalism has earned him unexpected praise. “Obviously, I don’t do my work at the end of the day to get recognition,” he told J-Source. He said he is cognizant of the fact that many of his peers’ merit equal acknowledgement. “Humbled is probably the word I’d use the most,” said Yum.
Along his journey, he has been inspired by his colleagues and editors he has witnessed work effortlessly behind the scenes. “The thing I’ve learned from all of them is obviously the standards of storytelling and the commitment to excellence that you need to have to be a good journalist,” he said.
His interest in journalism was fueled by his love for writing and consuming stories. “I thought that non-fiction was far greater than fiction, and history in the making was more interesting than studying history in the past,” he explained.
Yum realized the importance of digital journalism in the late nineties. As a young reporter entering the field, he had sensed a shift taking place in the industry.
“I don’t think everyone quite knew how big the internet, let alone social media and mobile and computers would end up being, especially for consumption of news entertainment,” he said.
In 2000, he played a hand in debuting the Globe and Mail website, and worked as managing editor of the site. He has also assisted in redesigning the nationalpost.com and financialpost.com.
In the beginning, Yum noticed some colleagues were reluctant to engage in digital journalism. But, with time he found most journalists were willing to adapt to the medium, because it allowed them to share stories to a larger audience in varied formats.
In his roles as editor and writer he believes that being mindful of cultural differences is key to the success of a newsroom. “The role of the media, if it’s going to be one that reflects its community by telling its stories, it needs to be more reflective of that population,” he said.
“When you talk about, say even something as simply mundane as wedding coverage. Every publication has a lifestyle writer who writes about the expenses of paying for a wedding. But then, when you think about the word wedding, maybe there are different versions of weddings,” he explained.
Examples he provided are those of communities that may practise arranged marriages or a union between a mixed-race couple, which may come with its own set of challenges. For him, the real risks lie in readers not seeing themselves in stories.
Being the child of Chinese immigrant parents has helped Yum identify the importance of representation in narratives. However, he noted, “I don’t bring a Chinese-Canadian agenda.” Rather, his objective has been to allow his staff to bring their story ideas on board.
Recently he wrote a blog discussing ‘The Proven Secret on Achieving Diversity in A Canadian Newsroom,’ in which he argued that the solution is simply “hire diversely.” Referencing the article, he said. “I actually get interviewed more often about diversity than any other topic.”
He acknowledged that differences are not just related to cultural backgrounds, but also on age. “I hire young,” he said, noting that HuffPost generally hires people graduating from journalism school in the last 10 years.
As a result of the makeup of his staff, Yum found that the stories explored naturally had diverse point of views.
Essentially, for him, it begins with deconstructing mainstream ideologies. “What is family? is it a man or a woman or is it two dads?” he asks, adding, “We’re just normalizing the fact that Canada is Canada.”
Sandrinette M. Maniania is an artist and freelance journalist with a bachelor’s in communication and in journalism. She recently completed her masters in journalism at the University of King’s College.