Samantha HoangLong is the newest member of ThreeSixty Journalism’s Leadership Council. The Council serves as the program’s advisory board, contributing primarily to programming, connecting, and fundraising.
Samantha HoangLong ended up at ThreeSixty by chance.
“I saw the College Essay Boot Camp and I thought, “I need a college essay so I might as well spend two weeks at this camp and do it,’” HoangLong said.
In 2016, HoangLong joined ThreeSixty Journalism the summer before her senior year because she was part of a program called College Possible, which required its students to join a summer program.
In fact, HoangLong had no particular interest in writing.
“I didn’t really love writing, I did it for class because I needed to, but it wasn’t like I wanted to be a writer. I actually wanted to be a dentist,” HoangLong said.
At that point in her life, HoangLong had different aspirations and was applying to colleges with the intention to study Biology or Chemistry.
Six years later, HoangLong is an established and successful journalist in the Twin Cities, having worked first at Fox 9 as a News Content Editor before her current position as Audience Growth Manager at Sahan Journal. Along that journey she also interned at MinnPost, Fox 9, and Star Tribune as a Digital Audience Intern, as well as reported for the Racial Reckoning Project, where she covered the Derek Chauvin trial and community response. Those reports aired on national radio stations.
But how did she decide to become a journalist? That can also be narrowed down to circumstance.
“I think I kind of fell into it honestly… truthfully it was the scholarship, which required me to major in COJO and I might as well make the most of it,” HoangLong said.
HoangLong believed she had a natural affinity for the style of journalistic writing.
“I’m not someone who is really passionate about writing, but I think the tone of writing news comes naturally to me,” HoangLong said.
She also became quickly drawn to the nature of the profession.
“I always knew I wanted to help people in some way, and I think that journalism was appealing to me because I had an interesting access to people, by allowing them to tell me their stories and experiences,” HoangLong said. Being able to steer the narrative is important, HoangLong says, “especially when growing up you don’t have a lot of examples of diverse voices or diverse stories.”
It was this emphasis on diversity and amplifying underrepresented communities, that made ThreeSixty Journalism the perfect match for HoangLong, who is of Vietnamese descent. Still, having grown up in the suburbs, HoangLong appreciated the new perspectives she found through ThreeSixty.
“It was a very diverse class, your camp was filled with other people from all over the metro, and so I was exposed to people who did go to school in the Twin Cities, since I grew up in the suburbs,” HoangLong said.
As for the importance of reporting on underrepresented communities, HoangLong believes the way those stories are told and from what angle they’re told can shape people’s perceptions in life.
“I think my own personal experiences growing up and not feeling like the stories of my parents as immigrants and refugees [were] reflected in media… It’s important that the experiences you have as an American is reflected in American media, but it’s not usually that way,” HoangLong said.
“Eventually the minorities will become the majority,” HoangLong said. “So as far as reporting on them, “It’s important to be there for those moments and capture that.”
HoangLong invoked the common remark that “news is the first draft of history,” and when she started working in the journalism industry, she felt connected to and inspired by that.
“That’s very powerful to be able to document things; you’re basically a historian,” HoangLong said.
As holds true with any organization or company in an industry under transitioning, the ones that thrive are the ones that embrace change and innovation, while those struggling to keep up with the changes or sticking solely to traditional media will fade away.
“There are so many papers out there that are doing layoffs and furloughs, and the news industry is really struggling to adapt and try new things,” HoangLong said. [That’s] probably going to continue unless those in control of the news industry are willing to take risks.”
Above all, reflecting on your purpose and mission as a journalist is key to staying grounded and ready to write the next story, HoangLong said.
“To young journalists, I would say figure out what you’re in the industry for, what you want to do in this industry… figure out your mission, basically, and what motivates you to be a journalist. Remember that wherever you go,” HoangLong said.
Now, ThreeSixty welcomes HoangLong to its Leadership Council. Joining the Leadership Council offers the chance to give back to an organization that altered her life and helped her discover who she was.
“It’s important to remember where you came from and where you started and not forget that,” HoangLong said. “I think joining the Leadership Council gives me the opportunity to continue helping young people figure out their lives.”
Providing a space that encourages students to find their personal voice and talk to others about their own life experiences is not only important work, HoangLong said, but “something worth investing in. A program that is building the next generation of storytellers and cognitive thinkers should be supported and advocated for.”
Plus, connecting with younger generation of storytellers always results in more insight for HoangLong.
“I always feel like the students in ThreeSixty are going to change the world,” HoangLong said. They’re all so creative and insightful and encourage me to think more and reflect about the world.”
Finally, for HoangLong this opportunity is about creating paths and making impacts on students that will be felt many years down the line.
“I think ThreeSixty opened a lot of doors for me, and I hope [to] continue that. I want to be a resource for the students involved to grow and to open more doors for better opportunities,” HoangLong said.