She Has ‘More to Tell’

Broadcast journalist and entrepreneur Crystal Bui has a story to share, but she’s not done with it yet. The title of her new memoir, More to Tell, makes that much clear. 

Bui was working as an on-air news reporter in Minneapolis in May 2020, when George Floyd was murdered by former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, with the assistance of three fellow officers. She begins her story by taking readers back to those harrowing days when Minneapolis exploded in fire and violence after Floyd’s murder was captured on video by a bystander.

Bui worked for KSTP, an ABC affiliate that has been locally owned and operated for decades by Hubbard Broadcasting. Stanley Hubbard, the head of this family-run company, is a prominent billionaire who openly supported Donald Trump’s presidency. Despite the Hubbard family’s wealth, which has been largely generated by its media holdings, Bui describes KSTP as a cost-conscious news outlet being run on the cheap.

While covering the fast-moving uprising that took place in the wake of Floyd’s death, Bui and the photojournalist working with her, identified only as Evan, found themselves caught in the dangerous melee. Many of their peers worked for local and national news organizations that had provided them with private security details and adequate resources, but not KSTP, according to Bui.

The situation on the street was tense and getting more so by the minute, but Evan and Bui were consigned to work alone, out of a “nearly broken down, rusty, off-beige Chrysler Grand Caravan with too many miles on it,” she writes. There is clearly no love lost between Bui and KSTP, whose true corporate motto must be, she surmises, “Profits over people.”

In this way, Bui’s memoir shines a light on what it is actually like to be a television reporter—especially during a traumatic event such as Floyd’s murder and its aftermath, and as an Asian American woman trying to carve out a career for herself. She is the daughter of Vietnamese immigrants and was a successful, determined student with a dream of becoming a reporter who could cover stories that older, white journalists perhaps could or would not.

Bui found herself in Minnesota shortly before 2020, after a stint at a CBS affiliate in New York City. New York was a dream destination for Bui, as it is for many young journalists, but the reality was a harsh wake-up call. She uses her reporter’s instinct to document the words and actions of others, including clearly drawn instances of the racist and sexist workplace bullying she experienced.

Bui felt shut out in New York, and thus moved on to the job at KSTP. Soon, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and when it did, hate crimes against Asian-Americans steadily rose. This added another layer of challenge for Bui, who was already dealing with sexism, racism, low pay, and a demanding schedule that often required a 3:00 a.m. start time.

As Trump and others continued to refer to COVID-19 as the “China virus,” Bui’s confidence and sense of security took a hit. Suddenly, she notes, she “wasn’t someone who felt safe as a Vietnamese American news reporter anymore.”

Bui’s memoir continues to weave her personal journey as an Asian-American woman with the national events happening around her, including the spread of the pandemic that led to more hate crimes against Asian people and the racial uprisings rippling out across the country from her new city.

Her prose moves quickly, bringing the reader along during frightening moments Bui spent covering the unrest on Minneapolis’s streets—typically without back-up, and with the pressure to provide more and more live content to viewers. Bui also described newsroom mandates for reporters that instructed them not to use the word protestors as a “stand-alone verb.” 

Instead, she writes, KSTP managers insisted that those participating in the uprising be referred to as either “violent protestors” or “rioters.” This struck her as a decidedly political move on KSTP’s part, which conflicted with her journalistic sensibilities. 

Bui writes that KSTP managers insisted that those participating in the uprising be referred to as either “violent protestors” or “rioters.”

Bui further describes her personal style of being forthright and outspoken as a problem in Minnesota, where the culture tends more towards evasiveness and reticence, at least when it comes to topics such as racism.

This leads her into conflict with her station managers. As in New York, she finds herself silenced (Bui says she was literally told by her supervisors at KSTP to never speak up in editorial meetings) and increasingly ostracized. When a male colleague sexually harasses her, Bui’s manager takes a poll in the newsroom, asking her fellow reporters whether or not they believe her story.

Eventually, the stress of working for a “scrappy, small-budget, local family-owned news station run by stingy multi-billionaires” while trying to cover stories as impactful as COVID-19 and Derek Chauvin’s murder trial becomes too much for Bui. She experiences depression and isolation, and makes plans to exit the Upper Midwest. 

Armed with a feisty agent, Bui lands a job at a news station in Atlanta, Georgia. It’s a bigger market than the Twin Cities, which is something Bui was aiming for, and the station manager that hires her begins an open dialogue with her about race right from the start. That makes her feel at home, and soon she is packing her bags and her rescue dog, Scout, and heading south.

“Injustice will always upset me,” Bui writes, “and that’s a good thing. It means I believe there can be a world where injustice isn’t everywhere.” 

Bui has since left the news industry and has started her own communications firm. It seems there is, indeed, much more to tell.