Local Journalist Heroes: Christine Chung
This Q&A is part of Local Heroes: Journalists Covering COVID-19, PEN America’s series spotlighting local journalists across the country in celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2020, elevating the importance of a free, vibrant, and inclusive press.
Name: Christine Chung
Outlet: THE CITY
City: New York, NY
In what ways has local news played a vital role in response to the COVID-19 crisis?
Local news is playing a vital role in the response to the pandemic in several ways. The numbers, especially those coming out of New York, are harrowing. We are trying to understand and humanize these statistics by searching for answers about how and why different communities across the city are affected. We are pushing back on city and state narratives in order to help New Yorkers, such as the lack of substantive data about nursing home COVID-19 cases here in New York. Although we are largely working from home, we are hearing the stories of people across all walks of life and sharing these collective experiences, which is something that I believe is deeply important during this time when many of us are alone, together.
“The way that people are responding to what they see as inadequacies in support from local government has been really uplifting and inspiring to me to both witness and write about. These kinds of positive stories are just as important to read.”
How have the advent of the COVID-19 outbreak and social distancing requirements changed your reporting and the way your newsroom operates more broadly?
New York has been on pause for a month now, and we are working from home. This means Zoom video calls, phone reporting, and digital press conferences, which we are lucky to be able to stay inside to participate in. But it also means the demarcation between reporting and life can be blurred, so that’s something we are all navigating in different ways that make us feel fulfilled.
What stories have you reported on that have given you the most hope?
A lot of the stories coming out of the pandemic are distressing and bleak, without pause. I recently wrote a story that touched on the plight of essential workers and New Yorkers of varying immigration status who can’t work right now—and an effort by grassroots groups in the city to support these communities in concrete and immediate ways. The way that people are responding to what they see as inadequacies in support from local government has been really uplifting and inspiring to me to both witness and write about. These kinds of positive stories are just as important to read.
What books, poems, podcasts, or other creative media have you been turning to for comfort and inspiration?
Full escapism mode. Korean dramas that are 16 episodes too long, a lot of peaceful piano music, and my newfound commitment to cook all of the Bon Appétit cozy pasta recipes.
About Christine Chung
Christine covers Queens for THE CITY, a local news nonprofit website dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York. She was previously a local government reporter at Newsday and a 2015 graduate of Columbia Journalism School. Her writing has appeared in New York Magazine, Chalkbeat, The Trace, The Village Voice, and others.