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From UW to NPR in less than a year: How Katelin Chow got her dream job

Katelin Chow (Photo: Lucas Anderson)

Less than a year after University of Washington grad Katelin Chow earned her degree in journalism, she managed to land what she calls her dream job.

“I feel really lucky,” Chow said. “Every morning I wake up I think to myself, ‘Oh wow, this feels so surreal.”

Chow currently works as a digital journalist for NPR, covering race, ethnicity, and culture for NPR’s brand new Code Switch team. Chow sparks online conversations and tells stories through social media and blogs.

Chow’s attraction to journalism began in high school, but her love of writing began earlier, following the death of her mother when Chow was only 13.

“That had a really big impact on me,” Chow said. “It made me really interested in writing and telling stories, because I used writing as a mechanism to cope with grief. After writing a lot about myself and writing awful, awful, awful poetry, I started getting really interested in just telling other people’s stories. I was so fascinated by that.”

After graduating high school in Connecticut, Chow decided that she wanted to move far away from the east coast. She came to the University of Washington in Seattle, where she immediately became heavily involved with the Daily, the university’s daily newspaper. She also single-handedly produced weekly videos for the university.

Chow also made good use of her four years by keeping herself overwhelmingly busy with jobs and internships.

“[In college] I just wanted to be very very well-rounded, and to be able to understand every single part of journalism,” Chow said.

“A lot of that came from being a very indecisive person, but then also, not wanting to just sit around and do nothing. So I completely overloaded my schedule every single quarter. I was an out-of-state student paying for college all by myself so I [also] worked part time jobs.”

Chow’s list of internships is impressive, to say the least. She was involved in the 2010 winter Olympics coverage in Canada, interned at KOMO TV and the Seattle Times, and was also a winner of the UW Foreign Intrigue Scholarship, which allowed her to travel to Cambodia and work for an English-language newspaper there.

In total, Chow said she completed over ten internships and jobs during her time at the UW.

While the wide range of experience undoubtedly helped her, Chow admitted that the stressful schedule was hard to uphold.

“For a while I was doing two internships at once in addition to working part time. And I remember just being so exhausted all the time and wondering ‘Is this worth it?’” Chow said.

“I just remember being so miserable because I just had no time to enjoy senior year, but then I got into this rhythm and I started thinking ‘Okay, I can do this.’ But it was very, very intense.”

Chow decided to extend her graduation a couple months in order to work as an intern at an English newspaper in Cambodia, which she said was an incredible experience, being both a lover of journalism and of other cultures.

After returning home, Chow quickly got a job at a public television station in Boston, but she wouldn’t be there long. About three months in, her current boss at NPR contacted her for an interview.

“ I had applied for this dream job in August, when I was still in Cambodia, and I never thought that I would have a shot,” Chow said. “I remember reading the job description and laughing because I didn’t think I had a shot at it.”

After a strenuous interview process (which even included a four-hour blogging test), Chow was offered one of the four positions at Code Switch that roughly 1,300 other people had applied for.

Chow modestly attributes a part of her success to luck, although it is clear she worked incredibly hard to where get where she is.

“I don’t know why I got it, I still wonder that every single day,” Chow said.

To aspiring journalists, Chow has a few words of advice:

“Be incredibly savvy. As a journalist I think in general that is a very important trait to have, but also know how to use technology and social media as a reporting tool…learn how to make valuable online content,” Chow said.

“Also having really solid reporting skills and knowing what makes a good story. Those things go hand in hand: you can’t be a good reporter if you’re not savvy and technically proficient, and you can’t be a good reporter if you don’t have good news judgment and you don’t know how to tell a good story” Chow said.

As for the future, Chow said she is more than happy where she is now, and hopes she can stay with NPR for a long time.

Ola Wietecha is a University of Washington student and an intern with SPJ’s Western Washington chapter. Email her at

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