As a young student, Jennifer Kho (‘99, Journalism) jumped straight into the deep end at The Lumberjack, Humboldt’s student newspaper, where one assignment after another led her off campus and into the community. She quickly learned to love the hustle, but even more, Kho began to cultivate the strong set of ethics that have guided her long career in the ever-changing world of journalism. A former editor at The Guardian and HuffPost, Kho is now on a mission to fix the misinformation epidemic as the Vice-President of Journalism and Equity at the social impact agency DoGoodery.
“We’re trying to save journalism one publication at a time,” says Kho, who believes that society’s biggest problems––including education, health inequity, poverty, systemic racism, and climate change––can’t be solved without addressing the information crisis. “So many communities in America don’t have access to true and essential information.” Kho says this is exacerbated in the climate crisis and pandemic era, where marginalized communities are especially vulnerable without accurate, up-to-date news about community safety and services.
After years in the newsroom on clean tech and environmental beats, Kho’s most recent focus blends her editorial expertise with media strategy––in other words, helping publications build their audiences, revenue models, and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in order to survive and remain relevant. “I love solving big problems,” says Kho. “The more sticky, the better.” Since joining DoGoodery last November, Kho now feels equipped to make a bigger social impact than when working for a single publication.
“Everyone should have equal access to information––it’s democracy,” says Kho.
Kho’s enduring curiosity in journalism started at a young age, listening to her parents’ stories about the struggles of growing up in Indonesia without a free press. She was further encouraged by her childhood admiration for April O’Neil, the fearless fictional reporter of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fame.
Kho’s childhood dreams led the Southern California native to Humboldt’s Journalism department for college, where she was influenced by former professors Maclyn McClary, affectionately known as “Mac;” Mark Larson, renowned photojournalist; Howard Seemann, who critiqued The Lumberjack weekly in “Howard’s Homilies;” Jerry Reynolds, hailing from the Daily Breeze; and George Estrada, longtime reporter at the Oakland Tribune.
“I learned all the important fundamentals of good reporting at Humboldt, which I still use today,” says Kho, who served as The Lumberjack’s community editor. “Arcata is such a special place. Every interview came back to people trying to do right in the community.”
Kho was particularly influenced by McClary, who she says wrote the book on journalism ethics. “His teachings helped me translate my own principles of radical empathy and truth-seeking into modern-day journalism,” says Kho. “It came from the spirit of Humboldt.”
With 20 years in the newspaper biz under her belt, Kho is still as passionate as a young April O’Neil about her work on inclusivity and equity in journalism. Through DoGoodery, she is helping media outlets large and small find ways to serve their communities––and tell the truth––in the editorial process.
“Journalism isn’t going away,” explains Kho. “But it only works when people have a voice.”
Photo courtesy of Candice Dickens-Russell