“Aliens with Extraordinary Abilities”


Hey there, 

This is Violet Wang 汪瑾琪. I’m a video journalist. Seven years ago, I came to the United States for high school. In college, I fell in love with filmmaking and looked for many career opportunities in video production. However, my immigration status has been a major roadblock.

“Will you now or in the future require sponsorship for employment visa status?”

This has been the scariest question I have heard over the past seven years. I once interviewed for a summer internship, and that was the first and last question the HR person asked me. Some smaller news organizations may find the idea of visa sponsorship unfamiliar, while bigger organizations worry about the uncertainty of the H-1B visa lottery system. 

As my student work permit comes to an end, I will be embarking on a new journey back in China next week. 

Later in Rock the Boat, we will share our experience with some of the career complications international journalists face.

With gratitude,
Violet Wang 


Best work from our members.

💪📷 Portraits of Hong Kong Identity 
What does it mean to be a Hongkonger in the current social, political, cultural context? Hong Kong-based documentary photographer Todd R. Darling collaborates with musicians and young people who participated in the recent demonstrations to articulate and question the Hong Kong identity. ChinaFile’s Muyi Xiao 肖慕漪 edits the photo essay, with translation help from Zhaoyin Feng 馮兆音.

💴💹 Chinese Investments in America
MarcoPolo’s Joy Dantong Ma 麻丹彤 takes a granular look at how exactly Chinese investments have affected American communities, jobs and daily life in an analysis piece. She uses data from each town, county and city across the country to shed light on three less understood aspects of Chinese investments in America.

🛍️📦 Body Positivity in China
Plus-sized people face a lot of social pressure in China. It used to be very difficult to find plus-size clothes in Chinese stores. Now, the rise of online shopping has come to fill this demand. Goldthread’s Venus Wu talks to plus-sized models and clothing sellers in this video about the growing awareness of body positivity in China. 

👷🔨 Mining Epidemic
Coal miners are heading to Washington D.C. to press American lawmakers to address the epidemic of deadly advanced-stage black lung disease. Jingnan Huo 霍靖楠 and her colleague Howard Berkes report for NPR and Frontline.

🎾🏅Tennis Goddess
Chinese tennis player Li Na became the first Asia-born player to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Xinyan Yu 余心妍 explores how Li’s career inspires children and Asian athletes in this video for the South China Morning Post.

🕌👳 Muslim by Force
In a recent white paper, Beijing says that Uygurs adopted Islamism not by choice but by force. It’s part of Beijing’s ongoing propaganda effort to justify its controversial policies in Xinjiang, where at least one million Uygurs are thought to be held in so-called “reeducation camps.” The South China Morning Post’s Jun Mai 麦俊 reports. 

⚕️🏥 Study Medicine in China
China has become an unlikely popular destination for Indian students looking to get medical degrees since it began to offer undergraduate medical courses in English. Photographer Yan Cong 丛妍 documents these aspiring doctors’ life in China for the Indian Express. 

📳🌏 Get back inside the “Great Firewall”
Many people in China use virtual private networks (VPNs) to circumvent the country’s internet censorship and access sites like Google and YouTube. But why are more Chinese people outside the country using VPNs to get back inside “the Great Firewall?” Tianyu M. Fang 房天语 writes for Inkstone.

💣🌇 Science and conscience
Loud Murmurs 小声喧哗, a Mandarin podcast that interprets pop culture through multicultural lens, talks about (in mandarin) HBO’s new series Chernobyl and the global war on truth in this latest episode. The podcast’s hosts are Isabelle Niu 牛牧歌, Afra Wang 王曌 with Diaodiao Yang. Yangyang Cheng 程扬扬 joins as a special guest.

🕺♿ Everybody Can Dance
In a Chicago Reader photo essay, Carolyn Chen 陈泽灵 features Kris Lenzo, who lost both of his legs at the age of 19. Now 59, he is an athlete, dancer, coach, and an advocate for people with disabilities of all kinds. 

Submit your published work in three ways: 1. DM us on Twitter; 2. post it in the Slack channel #shamelessplugs; 3. email hello@chinesestorytellers.com


Thoughts from our members on topics about the media industry, diversity and more.

Earlier, I talked about the difficulties one might face to find a job as an international journalist. But more challenges come after that. In the U.S., due to the high demand for H-1B visa, petitions are granted through a lottery system that has little to do with merit.  

Member Beimeng Fu 傅蓓梦 shares her experience of losing the H1-B lottery, leaving her job, and career in New York City:

I worked at Buzzfeed News till early ‘17 and heard the bad news about my H1-B case while back in China waiting. It sucked. It felt like everyone around me won the battle over the stupid system except me. I suddenly lost my beloved job, and even freelancing for them wasn't an option. It took me months, honestly, years to recover. Actually, to this day it still sucks. Even though I knew a change of track at some point would be good for me, that wasn't supposed to be it.

For member Shen Lu 沈璐, the visa application process is not just painful, frustrating but also costly:

I got picked for the H-1B lottery in 2018, but United States Citizenship and Immigration Services issued me a Request for Evidence (RFE), demanding me to prove that I needed a degree in journalism to work as a reporter. I lived the next three months in limbo, unable to work. My petition was eventually denied, to everyone’s surprise. I lost my job because of it. If I had not applied in time for an O-1 visa, reserved for so-called “aliens of extraordinary ability,” I’d have left the U.S. by now. I am still not sure whether living a life on probation as an immigrant in Trump’s America is worth it. But I do recommend fellow Chinese journalists who have even the faintest hope of developing a career in the U.S. to save a legal fund and hire your own immigration lawyer for contingency.

Member Jingnan Huo 霍靖楠 advises international reporters to be proactive and seek professional help:

Be prepared to help your hiring manager navigate the immigration process. Talk to an immigration attorney beforehand to get up-to-date on the policy and timeline, get a personal assessment on your visa options, the likelihood of getting each type. The company’s counsel could be helpful too. The idea to talk to lawyers come from my own experience but also from reporting. I did this story last year and found out that many international students don’t know enough about the visa process.

Chinese Storytellers consists of journalists working all over the globe. Member Zhaoyin Feng 冯兆音 shares knowledge on working in Hong Kong as a mainland-born journalist: 

The application process for a work permit for Chinese nationals in Hong Kong is relatively straightforward. Mainland Chinese who studied in Hong Kong for a bachelor's or higher degree are qualified to apply for the Immigration Arrangements for Non-local Graduates. Chinese citizens who have resided overseas and received a job offer from Hong Kong companies can also apply for a general working visa, which takes one to two months to process. Additionally, there are at least two programs designed for Chinese special talents who intend to work in Hong Kong.

🤔Tag @cnstorytellers on Twitter to keep the conversation going. 


We recognize our members’ professional achievements (and flatter them.)

👑 This Friday (August 2) at 9 a.m., Mengwen Cao 曹梦雯 (panelist) and Jin Ding 丁进 (moderator) will be speaking on a panel, “Career Success for Women and Non-Binary Journalists,” with Jesamyn Go, Millie Tran, and Catalina Camia at the 2019 AAJA national conference in Atlanta.

🖊 Shen Lu 沈璐 speaks on the SABEW (Society for Advancing Business Editing and Writing) panel, “The Business of Freelancing: How to Chart a Course for Success Virtual Training,” with Howard R. Gold, Ryan Derousseau, John Kimelman, Rebecca L. Weber.

⚖️ Jin Ding 丁进 shares diversity data on Pulitzer Center’s grantees for the first half of 2019. The percentage of people-of-color grantees has nearly doubled since 2017.

📽 Isabelle Niu 牛牧歌 screens a film she produced for Quartz, "Granny Sunshine," at the July gathering of the New York City Video Consortium, a collective of video journalists and nonfiction filmmakers. 

(Photo credit: Mengchen Zhang 张梦晨)

🥂 Tell us what makes you proud via email, Slack or Twitter.


Jobs, gigs, grants, fellowships, etc.

Axios China Reporter - [Remote]
Axios is hiring a China reporter for its weekly newsletter and China coverage.

Women Photograph Mentorship Program 
The program pairs 22 industry leaders (11 photographers and 11 photo editors) with 22 early-career photojournalists over the course of a year. The application deadline is July 31.

CNBC Camera Operator - [Beijing]
CNBC is looking for a camera operator in Beijing.

Ranking Digital Rights Research Analyst - [DC or New York]
D.C.-based Ranking Digital Rights seeks a full-time Research Analyst, who will be focusing on conducting research and analysis of Chinese companies. The application deadline is August 26.

👀 Find more on the #opportunities channel on Slack.

Writer: Violet Wang; Editors: Isabelle Niu, Miles Goscha.

Chinese Storytellers is a community that empowers Chinese non-fiction content creators. Follow us @CNStorytellers. Questions? Suggestions? Comments? Tell us.