AAJA-PDX member Donald Orr has forged an upward path for himself in Oregon’s public radio scene.
He first made his mark as the first AAJA/SPJ Emerging Northwest Journalists intern at Oregon Public Broadcasting three years ago and has since built his way up to holding a full-time announcer-producer position at the station.
Orr, 27, has stayed with the news organization ever since he graduated from Oregon State University in 2020. Following his summer internship, he came back as a temporary general assignment reporter that December. After that, the Salem native seized another opportunity and accepted a position as OPB’s inaugural Joan Cirillo fellow.
When Orr started his journalism career, he only had college radio experience and light exposure to reporting. But with every new experience, his skills and confidence grew and blossomed.
“I was just surprised of what I was capable of,” Orr said. “With opportunities like this internship, it exposes you to opportunities and experiences you wouldn't otherwise have. So, it can enlighten you.”
“Coming into it, getting the journalism chops, learning how to create a full-length feature -- that experience was invaluable,” he said.
He’s already distinguished himself in the Portland newsroom as its first fellow, but has given himself the additional mission of uplifting Asian American and Pacific Islander stories through his journalism.
Orr has pitched stories on a new Filipino community center and co-produced a series on mental health access for communities of color in Oregon.
“I almost feel like I'm being representative of that community too, of being Filipino in a mostly white space—interrupting that in a positive way,” he said.
Despite feeling an “internalized responsibility” to uplift AAPI stories in newsrooms, Orr hopes that eventually the duty will be equally carried by everyone.
“I feel like a lot of the (diversity, equity and inclusion) work is shouldered by or moved forward by POC or, specifically women of color,” he said. “Taking a lot of that upon themselves to move the culture forward, to move equity forward. I'm hoping we can get to a place where it is more of a balance for folks.”
Over the past year, AAPI issues in news coverage have been framed through the lens of negativity: anti-Asian hate, trauma and the coronavirus. But Orr knows there’s more to the story, and he wants to tell the rest.
“There's not enough stories about joy,” he said. “And we need more of that.” —Celina Tebor