Working on Dunwoody High School’s yearbook staff is what first sparked Justin Heo’s interest in journalism. Later, Heo, who lives outside of Atlanta with his parents and younger sister, began an internship during his junior year at VOX Atlanta, an online space for teen publishing and self-expression. “I got to work as if I were a professional journalist and interview young people around Atlanta about issues such as homelessness,” he said. “There was just something about getting people to open up and really share their stories and their truth that resonated with me. As a journalist, you’re the one who’s able to propel voices forward.”
Heo, who has declared a major in journalism, is one of approximately 200 new undergraduate students who will be joining USC Annenberg in August. This summer, we are introducing some of our community’s incoming undergraduate and graduate students and sharing their journeys to USC Annenberg.
First, what are you most excited about at USC Annenberg?
When I went on the campus tour, I was just blown away by how nice USC Annenberg’s Media Center was. I feel like this is a school that focuses on the future of journalism. I also really like the thought of being in L.A., because it is such a big entertainment and media hub that it will allow me to get better opportunities than some other places. I would love to try out everything right now. I have this fantasy of being in front of the camera and being on the scene, especially lately with all the protests that have been going on around the country and in Atlanta. I feel like being there, you're able to understand and empathize with the movement so much deeper than just seeing it on the news. I would love to be able to learn everything.
When you applied to USC, you mentioned wanting to reform journalism. What would you do?
As a gay Asian teenager, I think these are two minority groups that are often misrepresented in the media. I think a lot of the portrayals of gay people in the media are not correct. That’s changing for the better now, but it’s only now beginning. I feel as if the Asian community often goes silent. At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there were a lot of hate crimes on Asian people, but there wasn’t much coverage on this and there wasn’t much outrage. I felt this was wrong because Asian people did not have the representation in media or had positions of power in order to speak out about this. That’s one of the things I’d like to change.
How do you think younger generations are consuming news?
I think now with the rise of Twitter, Snapchat and Reddit, people are able to access information as it’s happening. A lot of news sources are starting to use videos that are shared through social media channels to better represent how people feel. I see a lot of young people getting news through Snapchat, and it’s done in such a concise manner that I think is really important. To be able to condense news into a very consumable, but also entertaining and factual way, is something I’m interested in — exploring the different ways we can use technology to advance the way media is consumed.
What kind of journalist do you hope to be?
I am really interested in gonzo journalism. The idea of focusing, on a very microscopic level, on a certain event through the lens of maybe one person. Then we just follow their perspective, just talking to them and experiencing all of it. I think it’s very important nowadays for media to be entertaining, even if it’s the news. It allows people to have a deeper connection with it.