Keeping Up With The Alums: Anh Do shares her advice on being a good journalist

Meet Anh Do, a LA Times reporter and Annenberg graduate, who shares her advice to student journalists on how to make it in the industry.

Anh Do of the Los Angeles Times looks into the camera.

Anh Do was destined to be a journalist. She is the daughter of Yen Ngoc Do and Loan La Do, the founders of the first, oldest and largest daily newspaper published in Vietnamese outside of Vietnam, Nguoi Viet Daily News. She literally learned how to be a journalist sitting at the dinner table.

A Los Angeles Times Metro writer and part of Annenberg’s Class of 1990, Do started her career in journalism as a Metro intern with the Dallas Morning News.

She has a simple piece of advice for student journalists: be curious about the sources you interview and “keep your humanity,” by treating your sources with respect and empathy beyond the deadline you are assigned.

“It’s not your one time to sit down with a source,” she said. “You may be coming back to [them] time and again and through years, not just days or weeks, I think it’s really respectful and enriching to try to get to know them a bit deeper than just plain facts that will allow you to meet your deadline.”

With a career of nearly 30 years in the industry as a journalist, Do attributes her success to the lessons she learned at Annenberg.

“I chose USC because the UC system doesn’t offer any undergraduate journalism degree,” Do recalled. “And I never looked back, because USC has always had this wealth of professors who are really versed and immersed in the craft.”

After graduating USC, Do honed her skills working at publications like the Dallas Morning News, The Seattle Times and the Orange County Register. The Southern California native explained that during her time at Annenberg, she was surrounded by multiple professors who worked at notable publications like the Los Angeles Times and whose work she had spent her entire life reading.

At USC, Do was able to learn first hand from journalists she had spent her entire life looking up to and even had the opportunity to work with in the future including notable journalists Patt Morrison and Sue Horton.

“It’s amazing to have these folks, as your instructors, and then later, they’re your colleagues,” Do said. “I grew up reading the Los Angeles Times and knew all the bylines. USC has this wonderful menu of courses that you can really gain so much from because the instructors not only have practical experience, they also have an enduring love for writing and reporting, which I think is so essential.”

Do said Annenberg taught her the “art of versatility,” which she describes as being open to writing about everything on the spot and being able to hit the ground running, no matter what you’re covering.

“It sounds odd, but I really think it’s important for journalists, at least early in their career, to be a generalist,” Do said. “You don’t need to specialize in a beat or an area of expertise right away. I think you should get your feet wet. A lot of young journalists, I see, jump straight to an area of speciality, like say, courts coverage or health care, they don’t stick with it long. They seem to burn out earlier.”

Among Do’s most notable memories at Annenberg was her study abroad experience in London. She said living in another country changed her viewpoints and allowed her to see new perspectives.

“It’s still my favorite city in the world. We had new instructors who were not based on campus,” Do said. “It introduces you to a different world and you’re linked to programs at other universities. It’s an incredible taste of what’s out there and what’s available beyond the doors of Los Angeles. I would urge current students to go on one of those.”

She also shared her advice on interviewing and reiterated the importance of connecting and establishing relationships with the sources beyond the article that is being written.

“You need to be able to extract the right amount of information from them and establish this rare rapport to get them to come alive for you, especially on camera,” Do said. “You need to learn to have patience and pacing, speed, and innovation when you produce the work. And to do that you need to be reading, practicing, reporting, polishing your writing, but just have fun and be curious and seek out people that you want to learn from.”

Do also advised students not to be “seduced” by big name publications and to be open with their options when beginning their career. She also advises students not to fear breaking away from just writing and reporting and always being open to other forms of media production.

“Really pay attention to your platform and how it best serves what you need at that stage in your career,” Do said. “You may get lost in the massiveness of the staff or you may get a once in a lifetime opportunity to prove yourself.”

Do currently works at The Los Angeles Times as a Metro reporter and covers Asian American issues in California and general assignments. Do has reported from multiple different countries including Cuba, India, Mexico, Peru and Vietnam.

Do’s writing on race, culture and trauma has won awards from Columbia University and the Asian American Journalists Association. She is also a recipient of Yale’s Poynter Fellowship in Journalism.

In her free time, Do serves on the advisory board of the Los Angeles chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association and rescues and raises awareness about dog rescues around the world.