Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Farewell from Vanessa Hua

While growing up in the Bay Area, I wrote short-short stories – blurbs, really – that twice won a Chronicle contest for kids. (It earned me $100 and a photo of myself in the paper wearing a bolo tie. It was fashionable at the time. If you wish to embarrass me, you can find both the story and the photo in the archives.)

Following stints at the Los Angeles Times, the Hartford Courant, and the late, great Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner, I wound up at 901 Mission Street after the merger.

It is amazing to write for your hometown paper, to cover a region that you love, for an institution that you held in high regard all your life. My mother makes copies of my articles and hands them out at her office. My father brags to friends and acquaintances – anyone he meets -- that I'm a reporter for the Chronicle. And so did I, for the last eight years.

I roamed the Bay Area, seeking tales. I helped chronicle the dot-com boom (and crash). I camped in the Nevada desert at Burning Man, walked among rows of factory workers stitching stuffed animals in China, and sat down with a teenage prostitute in Burma. I had beers with adoptees in Seoul. I ate dim sum in Panama with a Kuomindang recruiter. I traveled with Frontline/World to South Korea. And along with Christian Berthelsen, I exposed how a Chinese American leader funneled a state grant into the campaign coffers of Secretary of State Kevin Shelley. For that investigation, Phil mentioned me in a house ad, and Don Asmussen wrote me into "Bad Reporter" strip -- which I count among the top moments of my career.

My goal, then and now, was to shine a light into dark corners, to tell the untold stories. And to have fun doing it. It was a privilege and an honor to work here.

Many thanks go out to Susan Sward, who gave me advice whenever I needed it; Pati Poblete, who fought for me and my stories; to Ken Howe and Marcus Chan who honed my reporting skills and encouraged me to go after "conceptual scoops"; to Rosey, whose enthusiasm helped push me on stories, to Steve Proctor and Ken Conner, who granted me many opportunities, and to Phil, who throughout my career at the Examiner and Chronicle encouraged my ambition and offered much guidance.

To all the many fine journalists here: You make me proud. Thank you for helping me make me a better journalist, and a better person. Many have left. Many remain, and I wish everyone the best of luck. My parting wish is that the fight for diversity in our coverage and hiring is not lost. The paper needs to reflect the Bay Area, if it has any chance of surviving.

I'm going back to my first love: fiction writing. I am working on my novel at the MFA program at UC Riverside, on a Chancellor's fellowship.

Please keep in touch --- Vanessa.Hua (AT) gmail.com

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