On his way to meet me for coffee, Chenue Her's dad called him to offer congratulations for his debut as morning anchor on WOI-TV Monday. It was significant for two reasons:
- For his St. Paul-based family, there were early fears their Hmong American son wouldn't find a job in TV news.
- He proved to them that not only is it possible, but he could someday be the face of a station — even if he has to be the first one to do it.
"For the first time in a long time, my dad said he was proud of me," Her said. "I'm 30, but like, that still means so much to me."
Why it matters: Faces and names matter.
- It mattered during job interviews when stations asked Her if he would change his first name — Chenue — to something else. (He said no. He didn't get those jobs.)
- It mattered when he could show his parents Gia Vang, the Twin Cities' first Hmong American anchor, after they questioned if he would find a job in the field.
So, who is he? Her is the son of blue-collar Hmong refugees, and he's always been drawn to stories.
- There was no written form of Hmong until the 1950s — meaning his family relied on sharing stories to talk about their lives back in Laos and the Thailand refugee camp.
- It's "in my DNA," he said.
Her has had a cross-country reporting career, with his most recent stint in Atlanta at WXIA-TV. He's also covered breaking news in Virginia, and got his first break at KEZI-TV in Eugene, Oregon.
But when the opportunity to move from reporter at WXIA to anchor at WOI was presented, it wasn't something he could pass up, even with a 2am wake-up time.
- The team at Channel 5 let him be his "true, authentic" self, without asking for anything else, he said.
- And they recognized the significance of his anchor debut — giving him a little surprise on-air.
- In 2020, TEGNA, the company who owns WOI-TV, made a commitment to improving racial diversity in the company.
- David Loving, president and general manager of WOI-TV, said they had many applicants, but Her had the strongest journalism background and the station wants to represent Iowa's growing immigrant population.
What's next: Her is already making Des Moines his home, visiting local shops and restaurants.
- He said he hopes to cover the area's immigrants and refugees and "show they're a fabric of this community and their stories deserve to be told."
- As for his family, they're already planning their trip here.
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