Derek Wing was the winner of the Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) Puget Sound Region 2015 Hugh Smith Community Service Award and is the only Asian American to win in the award’s 18-year history.
Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS) executive director Diane Narasaki nominated Wing for the award to recognize his efforts in public relations. Wing was a board member of ACRS for three years before stepping down to spend more time with his children. But he is still actively involved with the organization, having helped emcee for various fundraising galas and Walk for Rice in June.
Wing was also the only Asian American man to anchor his own show consistently until Ryan Yamamoto started as an Anchor at KOMO4-TV. Wing left journalism in June 2007 for work in public relations. He has since worked as the senior associate director of media and public relations at Bastyr University, where he received a merit award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) District VIII in January 2016 for speechwriting. Wing is currently the communications manager and spokesperson for PEMCO Insurance in the greater Seattle area.
The International Examiner caught up with Wing to talk about journalism, Asian Americans in the media, and public relations.
International Examiner: What made you first realize that you wanted to be a journalist?
Derek Wing: I’ve always been a fan of reading newspapers, specifically sports sections. … So when it came time to go back to school, I was thinking about, what is it that I like to do, which is write, and what is it that people think that I’m pretty good at, which is writing, so journalism would make total sense. It was sort of through happenstance when I was applying for what kind of journalism—I just checked off the broadcast box because I thought it would be fun.
IE: What does being Asian American in the media mean to you?
Wing: It’s funny because when I got into journalism I had no idea how rare it was for Asian American males to be in the business as anchors let alone reporters. … It means a lot. I think I became sort of a role model to future generations and I took that responsibility very seriously. It was something that I wanted to do and I wanted to show that Asian American men are able to do these kinds of jobs.
IE: What challenges did you face?
Wing: I think in a lot of ways, news directors, people who hire anchors and reporters might not have known what to make of me or maybe they didn’t envision an Asian American man in that role because they’d never seen one in that role before.
IE: What drove the change from broadcast journalism to your work in public relations and communications?
Wing: I think what really drove me to make a change was to have a better work-life balance. When you work in broadcast journalism, there are a lot of expectations and demands on your time. … I tell people I chose life over work.
IE: What did you enjoy the most about working with the Asian Pacific Center on Aging and Bastyr University?
Wing: I think what I liked the most about it was giving a voice to the voiceless. Both of those organizations didn’t have somebody who had my skillset. … I helped to put them on the map in some ways.
IE: What is your opinion about working with PEMCO insurance as an Asian American and a PR and communications professional?
Wing: I don’t even know if they thought about this but this is something as an Asian American that I thought about … to be the “face of a company” is a huge responsibility. And for a company that isn’t an “Asian company,” to put somebody of Asian American descent as a spokesperson I think speaks a lot to their willingness to take chances, their willingness to be open, their willingness to try new things. I think that the way people think about other people, people who are not like them, is heavily based on what they see in media, in the news, in the movies. And so if there isn’t an accurate representation it can lead to misconceptions.
IE: Why did you get involved with ACRS?
Wing: In the Asian American community that’s supported me throughout every step of my career, it’s really important for me to give back.
IE: What inspires you about ACRS?
Wing: I think it’s helping folks that can’t help themselves. A lot of Asian Americans are immigrants and so not only do they face language barriers but they face cultural barriers. They don’t know what life is like in America and ACRS does a good job of helping them navigate an unknown landscape. To know that there are folks that are willing to help those in need is a really nice feeling.
IE: How does Walk for Rice fit into your work with ACRS?
Wing: It’s a great event to be a part of. It’s great to help those who can’t help themselves. … It’s hard enough to be a newcomer in this country, I think it’s really hard to ask for help. … And it’s especially hard when you ask for help and then you don’t get what you want or what you need.
IE: What is your opinion on the fact that you are the only Asian American to win the Hugh Smith award in its 18-year history?
Wing: I think that because I’ve been kind of the only one for so much of my career, I’m sort of getting used to it. It’s something that I take a lot of pride in; it’s something that I hope inspires other people.
IE: What is your best advice for young journalists and media professionals?
Wing: Everything that’s put in front of you in an opportunity. Every step along the way and every experience that a person has, a positive can be taken from it. The advice that I gave to one of my mentees many years ago was do what you love and the money will follow because I think that when you have an incredible amount of passion for what you do it totally shows in your work.