Chinese Tomatoes 'newsies' help communities connect

Updated: 2013-09-13 11:44

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily)

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 Chinese Tomatoes 'newsies' help communities connect

Chinese Tomatoes student reporters from the San Francisco Bay Area, getting a head-start on learning first-hand the teamwork needed to get the news out. Provided to China Daily

Chinese Tomatoes 'newsies' help communities connect

A group of Chinese Americans who are K-through-12 students during the day, have another identity after school - they're reporters for a website called Chinese Tomatoes. The goal of their journalistic efforts is to help residents whose primary language is Chinese become better aware of local news by providing Chinese translations and abstracts of stories.

"We're a community-specific news, information and engagement platform," said Fu Yong, founder of Chinese Tomatoes. "While most of the media focus on the great international, domestic news, we want to be the one that tells the story of our neighborhood, our town."

Chinese Tomatoes news sources are from the local English news sites. "We deliver the content in Chinese, to bridge the gap between Chinese-speaking parents who aren't as fluent in English," Fu said.

Founded in 2011, Chinese Tomatoes started in the TriValley covering Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Danville and Livermore. Coverage has now expanded to six sites in the San Francisco Bay Area where the most Chinese live, according to Fu. "In addition, we have an Austin, Texas site, which has been in operation for a year and a half. San Diego is another one we started not long ago," he said.

Currently, there are about 60 student contributors working at Chinese Tomatoes. Fu, who is also the president of San Ramon Valley Chinese School, said one of the reasons he founded Chinese Tomatoes was to provide Chinese American students with a real world platform to practice their Chinese.

"Most of the students on the team are US born. Their Chinese level is good, but it still takes a lot of training to finish a Chinese article independently," Fu said. "The task is quite a challenge for them, but we are happy to say that most of the students have been working hard and keep improving their language skills."

"Teamwork and professional behavior are what the students get from the program as well," he added.

Tiffany Jiang, a 12th grader at San Ramon-based Dougherty Valley High School who had an internship at Beihang University this summer, said she has been speaking Chinese and attending Chinese school from a very young age. However, being an American and living here all her life has made her lose touch with her roots.

"Chinese Tomatoes helps me connect with the language of my roots, forces me to work on my sentences and look up new words," Jiang said. "I vowed that when I came back to intern at Beihang University next year, I wouldn't communicate in broken Chinese or English, I would speak like a true Chinese."

Jiang believes that working with Chinese Tomatoes is all about creating a tighter community. "I'm not only helping interlink my community, but I am using my voice to deliver what's been happening to many readers. The fact that I can touch so many other lives is just amazing," she said.

The number of Chinese immigrant families has been burgeoning in California. The Asian American population in the Golden State grew 33.7 percent from 2000, faster than any other ethnic group. Asian is the second largest American ethnic group in the Bay Area, accounting for 1,664,384 of the total 7,150,739 population, and Chinese make up the largest Asian group, according to the latest US Census data.

While many immigrants from China have been settling in the US for years now, it can still be hard for them to integrate into the local community.

"Many [first-generation Chinese immigrants] don't tend to follow local news; not because of a general disinterest, but because of the fact that they're not comfortable with reading in English," said Sal Fu, a junior high school student who is covering Palo Alto and Cupertino for Chinese Tomatoes.

"I do my work at Chinese Tomatoes not only because I wish to improve my Chinese skills, but, above all, because I can serve my community while doing so," she said.

One memorable moment for her was when she spoke with someone who benefited from her work. "In search of a summer camp for her child, a parent stumbled upon Chinese Tomatoes, and found a suitable program. This one experience helped me truly realize that there are people out there making good use of the Chinese Tomatoes website - that ultimately, I am writing for my community, and not for myself."

"I see the rest of the student contributors and myself as the bridge that can help better connect the Chinese to the rest of its communities," she explained.

Sophia Yang, a 10th grader at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, California, agrees.

"Being a Chinese American is probably one of the biggest blessings in my life because it has allowed me to compare and experience two very diverse cultures. I am helping to bridge the cultural exchanges between China and the US," Yang said.

(China Daily USA 09/13/2013 page7)