It’s become almost cliché to say that COVID-19 has laid bare the racial and economic inequality in America, but one reason we can even talk about that fact is that intrepid journalists interpret data for us. On a local level, CapRadio’s first-ever Race and Equity reporter, Sarah Mizes-Tan, has been producing multiple stories each week on the intersection of race, health and politics.
Mizes-Tan moved to Sacramento to take the job at CapRadio in February 2020. When asked about her most memorable story in her relatively brief tenure thus far, she mentioned an April piece on inequity in the City Council’s distribution of pandemic-relief loans to small businesses. Her story contained the shocking fact that not a cent of the $1 million in loans went to any business in the Little Saigon district along Stockton Boulevard. Nick Miller, the managing news editor (who hired Mizes-Tan), also highlighted the power of that piece, saying, “Since that story, the city has been much more proactive about making grants and COVID relief funding equitable.”
Mizes-Tan and Miller came up with the concept of a full-time position devoted to race and equity in late 2019 during an extended job interview over lunch at Quán Nem Ninh Hòa—in Little Saigon. Miller knew it was time for CapRadio “to commit” to racial justice reporting; Mizes-Tan had been preparing for this opportunity for years.
Graduating with a master’s degree from Columbia School of Journalism in 2012, she started a career in print media in New Orleans at The Times-Picayune. Her desire to break into radio led her to quit and take an internship at Bay Area NPR station KQED; after that came years of freelance print and radio gigs in the Bay Area and nationally.
For a full-time position in radio, she moved to the Cape Cod NPR station CAI; although small, the station is well-regarded and has served as a crossroads for reporters who have gone on to larger markets. One thing it lacked? People of color. Mizes-Tan, who is Asian American, said she may have been the first person of color ever to work there. During her two years in Cape Cod, she mined the stories of the small communities of color that did exist, but she longed to return to California’s more diverse environment.
After she accepted the post at CapRadio, she and her husband moved to midtown, eager to explore their new community. Then came the pandemic. Mizes-Tan fashioned a socially distanced boom mic from a broomstick and got to work. The murder of George Floyd in late May and the subsequent mass demonstrations only made her position feel more necessary.
In addition to her reporting duties, Mizes-Tan has started an affinity group for employees of color at CapRadio. “CapRadio’s employees of color are diverse in their backgrounds and lived experiences,” wrote Mizes-Tan in an essay about inclusivity in public radio published on capradio.org in November, “but I wanted the affinity group to bring us together because I think we can all relate to the particular hurdles those of us who are non-white face in entering the public radio sphere.”
She is proud to be contributing to the dialogue about race and equity at the station, in the Sacramento community and nationally. “I think that for a person of color, trying to make it in public media, a lot of it is believing in yourself and taking what you deserve.”