Houston News Anchors Share Passion for Community Impact in Women's Leadership Series Program
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HOUSTON, June 2, 2022 — Closing out the eighth year of its signature Bank of America Women’s Leadership series, Asia Society Texas welcomed four trailblazing news anchors for a conversation on their journeys and careers.
The program featured ABC13 Live at 5 co-anchor Melanie Lawson; KHOU 11 News at Noon anchor Shern-Min Chow; ABC13 Eyewitness News reporter Pooja Lodhia; and KHOU 11 anchor/reporter Rekha Muddaraj in conversation with Ginger Koto Vaughn, a lecturer at Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business. The audience included distinguished guests, professionals, and university students.
A passion for journalism
To start the conversation, the speakers shared what inspired them to pursue careers in journalism. These inspirations included general curiosity, a commitment to capture everyday events, experiences at college newspapers, and fascination with newsroom operations.
The speakers also shared stories they had reported on that were particularly significant for them. Noting she has at least one meaningful or touching interview each week, Chow recalled a recent interview with a retired U.S. Marine who previously worked in construction but went on to graduate from Rice University and work as an account executive with the Houston Astros. She commented on how, given his circumstances, the interviewee didn’t believe he could achieve such professional milestones and spoke on how moved she was by his determination and success.
Lodhia and Muddaraj reflected on how meaningful it is to tell stories which can highlight the lives of everyday people living and working in Houston. Lawson agreed, noting that “we are all similar in certain ways” and that "everybody has a story or perspective." The speakers also agreed on the importance of support from their friends and family as they faced challenges throughout their careers, and shared how they rely on that support especially when reporting on tragic or heartbreaking stories.
Diversity in the newsroom
In response to Koto Vaughn’s query about how women — and women of color — have seen representation in the media industry evolve over the years, Lawson noted that there have been many changes, particularly in the last decade, and highlighted several women currently in leadership positions at ABC13. Muddaraj added that newsrooms are increasingly more aware of the importance of diversity both on- and off-camera, and Lodhia emphasized that diversity of perspectives is critical in order to accurately cover different news stories.
Help Us Build a More Inclusive World
Reflection on current events and advice for the students
As she reflected on the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of ant-Asian hate speech and crimes, Chow said she believes that people who express these sentiments are a “loud minority” and that she remains optimistic about the future. Lawson recalled other recent events that were challenging to cover as a journalist, quoting from Martin Luther King, Jr. that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."
Lodhia and Muddaraj reflected on the continued relevance of local newsrooms, sharing their belief in the importance of local news and its impact on the communities they cover, particularly when tragic events occur. To close out the program, Lawson shared advice for students and recent graduates, stressing the importance of always remaining curious and remembering that the most meaningful stories can be found not just by interviewing big names but also by connecting with the people we meet daily.
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About the Speakers
Shern-Min Chow anchors KHOU 11 News at Noon weekdays, fills in on other newscasts, and reports. She joined the station in 1996. She began her career in journalism as a stringer for Newsweek and has worked at KTRK-TV and anchored at KPRC-TV in Houston, as well as KENS-TV in San Antonio. Chow's awards include the Houston Press Club Award for "Best Series," the Texas Associated Press Award for "Best Spot Newscast-Producer," and an Emmy for the documentary Hong Kong Under the Dragon.
Shern-Min speaks often to civic groups, schools, churches and other organizations. Over the years, she has made close to 1,000 community appearances. She is currently on the advisory boards of the Asia Society and the Chinese Community center. She has previously served on the boards of SpringSpirit Baseball, the Bo & Stacey Porter Self Foundation, the YWCA, The Houston Ballet, the Chinese Community Center, and The Bayou City Medical Center.
A history graduate from Yale University, Shern-Min speaks conversational Mandarin and Shang Hai dialects of Chinese. She has also studied Spanish, French and German. Shern-Min and her husband have two sons. They are students at Rice University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
ABC’s award-winning journalist Melanie Lawson currently serves as co-anchor of Live at 5, and Channel 13's midday show, Eyewitness News at 11am. Melanie has covered virtually every city, state, and national election during her career. She has traveled to Cuba, Panama, and Africa, among other places. She has won numerous awards for her reporting, including an Emmy for her coverage of President Clinton's visit to South Africa, the only local reporter in the nation to make that trip. Melanie has interviewed a wide range of notables, including three U.S. Presidents, Henry Kissinger, the Dalai Lama, poet Maya Angelou, Grammy Award winners Destiny's Child, and former heavyweight champion boxer George Foreman, among many others. She received her undergraduate degree in Politics from Princeton University, and a joint degree in Law and Journalism from Columbia University. She is admitted to both the Texas and New York State Bars.
Pooja Lodhia joined KTRK and the ABC13 Eyewitness News team as a general assignments reporter in the spring of 2012. Before making her leap to Houston, she reported at Eatel News Magazine in Baton Rouge; WLUC in Marquette, Michigan; and WFTX in Fort Myers, Florida. Some of her most memorable stories include covering final space shuttle launch in Cape Canaveral, Hurricane Isaac in New Orleans, and a moose on the loose in Michigan. She truly believes that every person has a story worth telling, and she's honored to be able to do so. Pooja was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and has family here in Houston. She has degrees in English Literature and Journalism and a minor in Modern Dance from Emory University in Atlanta.
Rekha Muddaraj is an Anchor/Reporter at KHOU 11 News in Houston, Texas specializing in health/medical reporting. Rekha Muddaraj joined KHOU 11 News in 2012. She currently anchors the 4 p.m. weekday news. Prior to her move to Houston, Rekha worked as a reporter and fill-in anchor at KFMB-TV (CBS) in San Diego for five years, where she won an Emmy for her breaking news coverage of the 2007 Southern California wildfires. Rekha also worked as a reporter at KOAM-TV in Pittsburg, KS. She covered news in four states including Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. She holds two degrees from Arizona State University: a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication (from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism) and a B.S. in Political Science.
About the Moderator
Ginger Koto Vaughn is a Lecturer in Communication at Rice Business. She teaches in the MBA program and leads diversity and intercultural communication workshops. She helped launch Rice’s Activate Engineering Communication Program in 2019 for engineering master’s students. She also teaches entrepreneurial communication and has served as a pitch coach for Texas Medical Center Innovation (TMCI) and UTSW. She mentors Japanese American emerging leaders for the US-Japan Council and guest lectures on diversity issues at Stanford’s Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) and the East-West Center.
Prior to joining Rice, Ginger was a business journalist and media producer in Tokyo, Japan where she worked for NHK World broadcasting for over a decade. She also held faculty appointments at Hosei University and Akita International University’s (AIU) graduate program in communication. After getting her MBA from Waseda University, she worked in finance for JP Morgan Chase and BNP Paribas as an exotic swaps analyst.
About the Women's Leadership Series
The Women's Leadership Series (WLS) celebrates influential, diverse women making a substantive impact in both the business and culture arenas, locally and globally.
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About Asia Society Texas
Asia Society Texas believes in the strength and beauty of diverse perspectives and people. As an educational institution, we advance cultural exchange by celebrating the vibrant diversity of Asia, inspiring empathy, and fostering a better understanding of our interconnected world. Spanning the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, our programming is rooted in the educational and cultural development of our community — trusting in the power of art, dialogue, and ideas to combat bias and build a more inclusive society.