Valerie Leung is a Kwantlen Polytechnic University journalism alumni who graduated in 2019. She was hired at Richmond News where she writes articles and creates multimedia content.
Additionally, Leung helps manage their website by arranging online polls, gathering data, managing the newspaper’s Facebook account, scheduling content, and overseeing online comments.
When did you join the KPU community and why?
I originally studied kinesiology at Simon Fraser University, but when I was basically in my last year of my studies, I realized it wasn’t really for me career-wise. At the time, I was doing a minor in communications and enjoyed storytelling through photography and videography. I decided to look for other post-secondary institutions with smaller class sizes that would accept my transfer credit, and KPU happened to be one of the most straightforward schools to accept most, if not all, my communication credits that I accumulated at SFU.
However, KPU didn’t only offer a communications degree, because it was linked with journalism. At the time, I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn something new since journalism was also a form of storytelling.
Journalism, to me, is a reality that’s happening in the community. The KPU counsellors were good and the instructors were helpful, and with the smaller classrooms, you actually have more of a connection with your teachers. You get to talk more and they get to know you a bit more, which was actually helpful considering I came from a different institution that worked in a different way. So I took that leap in 2017.
What is your favourite story of your time at KPU?
My favourite story, or potentially my most embarrassing moment, was taking an Indigenous course for the first time. And I don’t mean the first time at KPU, I mean the first time ever learning about it in my life.
In the course Introduction to Indigenous Studies, I learned things that I never learned in social studies during elementary or high school. It was that class that brought to light many things I never knew, and honestly, I felt a little ashamed because of it.
During the very last class, we sat in a circle to talk about one thing that we felt most connected to or remembered from that class. I remember being so confident and ready to say, “I never realized how privileged I was to be sitting in a classroom or to be on the land of Indigenous Peoples,” but all that came out was me literally just crying.
Something just hit me and I don’t know what it was. And that’s when my friend, who was sitting next to me, said, “It’s okay, we understand.” This story still sticks with me and I think it’s because that class really showed how important Indigenous issues are.
I was so ignorant up until that point, considering that I was in my mid-20s. When you’re in your mid-20s You think, “I’m an adult, I know things in this world,” but I never realized how little Indigenous Peoples’ voices were heard. That just made studying journalism so much more important because there are stories that need to be told and people need to learn them.
What is something you’d like to say to people new to the community?
There is always someone there to help. People are super nice and super helpful especially if you need help. I remember getting lost one time and instead of me asking people for help, they offered it. They’d ask, “Hey, are you lost? Do you need help?” or “What do you need help with?”
So don’t be afraid to ask people, get to know your network and the people around you in your classes because KPU is probably going to be one of your most ideal places to build your network before you graduate and get out into the community.
What are you working on right now?
So as a digital reporter, I’m just constantly writing stories within the Richmond community and wanting to connect more with different communities – whether it be the arts or sciences. I guess right now I specifically work alongside a lot of the arts industry. A lot of artists recently did a story on how they are trying to integrate the NFT market and how they’re trying to get their artists out there to expand their networks. I also do a lot of photography work for the publication and on the side as a hobby.
Also, managing disrespectful comments on social media is part of being a digital journalist. You have to be receptive to different opinions on things but if there are trolls we have to remind them that this is an open and safe space for critical or positive comments. In general, our community is pretty good.
What is something you would like people to know about you?
I’m an introvert but at the same time, I like meeting and talking to people but cold-calling is probably one of the most difficult things to do as a journalist. I’m also doing streeters which involve approaching random people on the streets and asking them questions. That’s probably the most difficult for me.
Also, I guess like many people, I love travelling and photography and short-form video. It’s literally the thing that everybody does nowadays as well. It’s something I have a passion for because it just integrates storytelling, and visuals always help.
I love writing stories, but I find photography and video can show and tell a story a lot more. So, I’m also going to try new things. Whether it be practicing recreational archery, or learning about arts or doing something like skydiving. Something like that.